The day that many Pittsburgh Steelers fans were fearing has finally arrived. As reported by multiple sources, the New England Patriots have an offer sheet on the table for what is being said is a one-year contract to Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders is a restricted free agent and should the Steelers not match that offer, the Patriots would have to surrender a third-round pick in exchange.
As much as I’d like to think the Steeler could match the one-year tender, I doubt they would. My first thought when I heard this was “why would the Patriots only offer a one-year deal?” I presume this is because the Patriots understand that Steelers cap situation is dire enough that it won’t matter.
Most speculated that the Patriots would front-load a three or four-year contract that would preclude the Steelers from being a player. Would a one-year contract make it easier for the Steelers to match? Perhaps, but at this point I have to assume Sanders is gone.
What this means for the Steelers moving forward is that beyond wide receiver Antonio Brown, this team is very thin at the position. Knowing the Steelers, they would likely want to bring in a vet likely after June 1 cuts to fill the void rather than draft a replacement with a first or second round pick in hopes they could step in and start right away.
That’s not to say they wouldn’t draft a wide receiver at some point to provide depth, but it almost certainly won’t be early in the draft.
A move like this could be a problem the Steelers. Make no mistake, Sanders can play. He’s an underrated deep target with tons of upside. I had hoped when nothing happened right off the bat that the Patriots had moved on, but clearly Sanders was their target all along. This just adds to the potential struggles this team may face in 2013.
Curt covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL draft and college football for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard.