The New England Patriots still have a lot of work to do in constructing their wide receiving core for the 2013 season. After the underachieving Brandon Lloyd was released this past week, the only wideouts on the roster currently are newly signed players, Danny Amendola and Donald Jones.
Two of the Patriots’ free agent wide receivers from a season ago, Julian Edelman and Deion Branch, remain unsigned and neither has garnered much interest in the open market.
The Patriots visited with Emmanuel Sanders last week, an intriguing player who can help stretch the field for the Patriots offense. There were initial reports that the Patriots had signed Sanders to an offer sheet, but a week has passed and there has been no recent buzz on the 26-year-old receiver out of Southern Methodist University. If the Patriots were to sign Sanders, they would surrender a third round pick to his current team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, because he is a restricted free agent.
Given the current state of the receiving core, giving up a third round draft selection for Sanders would be well worth it for the Patriots. Sanders brings a unique skill set to the table as he can be very explosive and take the top off defenders despite his small stature. He is also a tough match-up to guard one-on-one in coverage which could open up opportunities in the passing game for Amendola and Jones, as well as for tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. In Sanders’ three years in the NFL, he has accumulated 1,290 receiving yards on 94 receptions with five touchdowns.
New England cannot afford to head into draft night with just two receivers on the roster, both of whom were not on the squad last season. The Patriots would be wise to add another receiver, like Sanders, and possibly bring back the veteran Deion Branch, especially since the newly signed Donald Jones is likely only ready to be the No. 3 receiver on the roster for this year.
It would be a risk to sign Sanders in the sense that it would cut the Patriots total draft picks down to four, with only two selections in the first six rounds. Alas, Sanders’ versatility and speed could significantly enhance the Patriots high octane offense and therefore he is well worth forking over a third round draft selection.