by NFL Gimpy
Several days ago, Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders tweeted “Hate the business side of the NFL.” Why would he say that? Sanders, as a restricted free agent (RFA), received a 1-year contract offer from the Steelers with a 3rd round compensation if he signed elsewhere. If Sanders signed an offer with another NFL team, there would be 2 possibilities: the Steelers match that offer and Sanders stays with the Steelers or they don’t match and the Steelers receive a 3rd round pick from that team. Sanders’ situation became very interesting when the Patriots offered him a 1 year, $2.5M contract, roughly a $1.2M increase from his RFA offer. This set off a week of uncertainty for Sanders which easily explains his disdain for a process that has now ended with the Steelers matching the offer. Sanders will remain in Pittsburgh for 2013.
There were several questions around this whole scenario that made it much different than a normal RFA contract offer. Primarily, why would the Patriots only offer a 1-year deal? That seems to be the most puzzling thing of all on the surface, but if you break it down a little bit it makes sense. There were 4 reasons for a 1-year deal. First, the Patriots could turn around and immediately re-sign Sanders to an extension as long as his cap number for 2013 was larger than the offer ($2.5M). That would be very easy to accomplish and the offer was designed so they could extend him before the season began. Second, they assumed it would be difficult for the Steelers to pass up a 3rd round pick for a player they will most likely lose next offseason. Third, the Steelers have major salary cap concerns and an additional $1.2M would make things even more difficult. Finally, if the Steelers do match, Sanders is likely to be a free agent next season (the Steelers would have to place the franchise tag on him or sign him to an extension) and the Patriots can take another shot at him.
Given that Sanders did try to leave the Steelers, it shows that he may not be interested in a contract extension. For Sanders, this was a win-win proposition. Either he receives a $1.2M raise in 2013 or he earns a long term contract. If Sanders doesn’t trust the Steelers to pay him what he thinks he deserves, he has to make a move and this was it. Now, the Steelers know if they want to keep Sanders after this season, he needs an extension ASAP because he will happily test the market without one.
I think the Steelers made a mistake here. Unless they’re very confident they can sign Sanders to an extension, they lost a 3rd round pick for one year of Sanders at WR. Sanders has been an above average player and may be close to a breakout season. If the Steelers don’t win the Super Bowl and they lose Sanders in free agency, it was all for naught. I understand the mentality of teams like the Steelers; they’re always a contender and will plan to compete every season. But do you sacrifice a good draft pick for one year of an above average WR when you’re a long shot to win the Super Bowl? That doesn’t seem prudent to me.
Take a look at their division rivals, the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens let several talented players leave via free agency because they didn’t value those players as highly as other teams. The Ravens will get virtually nothing back, just a few compensatory picks in the 2014 draft. The Steelers gave up a 2013 3rd round pick. That’s a top 100 pick. The Ravens will get less in return for better players. I’m not saying Emmanuel Sanders isn’t worth $2.5M because he certainly is. But is he worth $2.5M and a 3rd round pick if he leaves after the season? Unless Sanders is a key player on a deep playoff run, hell no was he wasn’t worth it.
The only way for the Steelers to win is if Sanders signs a cap-friendly long term extension or if they make a deep playoff run. If the Steelers have a mediocre season and Sanders leaves they’ll really wish they had that 3rd round pick. The Patriots have only lost the opportunity to have Sanders this season. The attempt to sign Sanders does underscore the inability of the Patriots to draft and develop a WR. Here’s a list of the WRs the New England Patriots have drafted the past 10 years and the year/round they were drafted in: Jeremy Ebert (2012/7th), Taylor Price (2010/3rd), Brandon Tate (2009/3rd), Julian Edelman (2009/7th), Matt Slater (2008/5th), Chad Jackson (2008/2nd), P.K. Sam (2004/5th), and Bethel Johnson (2003/2nd).
With a guaranteed Hall of Fame QB, none of these players has 1,000 career receiving yards. The best of the bunch has been Julian Edelman with a little over 700 career receiving yards. Meanwhile, they’ve drafted 4 TEs who have had better career numbers than those 8 WRs over the same time frame. I’d say the Patriots have been pretty bad at drafting WRs over the past decade. Let’s hope for Tom Brady’s sake things turn around in 2013. They have struck gold with veteran WRs but with no options left they’ll either go with what they’ve got or hope they can finally develop a rookie for the first time since Deion Branch and David Givens in 2002.
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The NFL Draft is a mere 10 days away and I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a mock draft but last year my mock was a disaster and the draft is so uncertain this year. I wrote about QBs and the draft last week and with the amount of uncertainty there, it makes a mock draft even more difficult. I’ll have something next week in preparation for the draft but I’m uncertain as to what it’ll be. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions as to what you want to see in preparation for the draft, comment or send me a tweet.
-Let me get this straight. The Cowboys haven’t reached an agreement as to whether or not Josh Brent will come to offseason workouts. He KILLED his teammate Jerry Brown. He drove drunk with Brown in the car, acted like an idiot while driving, and the ensuing accident KILLED HIS TEAMMATE. There is no doubt Brent was drunk, driving, and caused the accident. The only doubt is how severely the law punishes him or if some technicality gets him off. The Cowboys say there’s “no chance” he plays for them in 2013. I don’t care what the CBA says regarding scenarios like this; do whatever you can to prevent Brent from coming to workouts. There shouldn’t be a question as to whether or not he’ll be on the team in 2013. I feel like killing a teammate should fall under “conduct detrimental to the team.”
-Attention sports media: please stop talking about the backup/wildcat QB on the Jets. Please. I beg you. The state of sports journalism is already a joke and the horse is nothing more than a bloody pulp now. Stop beating it.
-While on the topic of the Jets, if they don’t get this Revis deal done and he walks after the season, ownership needs to fire GM John Idzik. You cannot allow a premier NFL player to walk when an opportunity to trade him for a great return was there to take. It seems as if they’re playing hard to get with the Buccaneers who have much more leverage as seemingly the only suitor for Revis.
-Rumors say that the Chiefs are willing to trade LT Branden Albert for a high 2nd. There should be several teams on the phone with them if true. If Albert’s health checks out, he’ll only be 28 when the season starts. You can easily get 4-5 years of good LT play out of Albert. That’s worth a high 2nd round pick. If that pick enables you to go after someone else with your 1st round pick instead of chasing a LT, you’re in much better shape. Miami, Detroit, San Diego, and Arizona would be good destinations.
-One of the dumbest things I see in mock drafts is when a writer says a team should draft a position in the 1st or 2nd round because a rookie last year didn’t make an immediate impact. Take Michael Floyd for the Arizona Cardinals. Floyd didn’t have a great rookie campaign. But that doesn’t mean the Cardinals need to draft a WR in the first 3 rounds because of that. WR is a tough position to make an immediate impact at in the NFL. Here’s the rookie season of a consensus All Pro WR: 48 catches for 756 yards and 4 touchdowns. Floyd: 45 catches for 562 yards and 2 touchdowns. I do not mean to compare Floyd to this WR in any way, shape, or form (which is Calvin Johnson, by the way), but only to illustrate that even a dominant WR like Megatron didn’t torch the world his rookie season. Megatron also had a savvy vet QB in Jon Kitna (4,000 yards and a 63.3% completion) throwing him the ball. Floyd had Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Bryan Hoyer, and Ryan Lindley (combined for 3,383 yards and a 55.4% completion). There’s a slight difference there.
-I hope the draft prospect that trashed a hotel room at the combine is revealed. Anyone with that little regard for common sense is hopefully punished on draft boards. If you can’t trust a player to not trash a hotel at a job interview, how can you trust him with a 6 or 7-figure check?
-I’m happy to announce I have begun writing for Pitt Blather, a site for Pitt football, basketball, and other sports. I’m proud to write about my alma mater and have added a lot of what I have learned from Tommy and Matt to the site. I’m writing there under my first name, Justin. Don’t get too excited, I’m still writing here. You haven’t gotten rid of me yet.