Steelers Will Most Likely Work On Extending WR Emmanuel Sanders Once He Is Tendered

The Pittsburgh Steelers currently have three wide receivers in the form of Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and David Gilreath under contract for the 2013 season as we inch ever so slowly towards the free agency signing period. Mike Wallace, an unrestricted free agent, will most likely be off to greener pastures by the end of March, while Emmanuel Sanders, a restricted free agent, will most likely be tendered at an original round level of $1.323 million.

Once tendered, the Steelers will most likely try to sign Sanders to an extension, which will likely be lower than the one Brown signed during training camp last year. Just as a reminder, that extension was for 5 years, $42.5 million and included an $8.5 million signing bonus.

Sanders must decide if he wants a long-term deal at that point. He could take the sure guaranteed money or gamble on having a career season while playing on his one-year tender, and then try to test free agency in 2014 as an unrestricted free agent. Odds are that he will take the long-term deal, but you just never know.

So how much can the Steelers afford to offer Sanders? Based on the shape that they will most likely be in salary cap wise after tendering all of their restricted free agents, restructuring a few deals and possibly releasing a few other players currently under contract, the first year cap hit of a new deal for Sanders needs to be roughly $2 million or less.

The biggest factor in all new deals is the signing bonus, so I wouldn\’t expect anything more than $6.5 million on a four-year deal for Sanders. That would make his first year cap hit roughly around $2.255 million, which would be an increase of $932,000 over what his one-year tender would have been. Sanders also would likely received a year two guaranteed base salary along with a roster bonus to sweeten the deal, and in essence give roughly $10 million in guarantees if the contract is structured like I think it will be.

Sanders managed to make through a full season in 2012 without any problems after being slowed by feet and knee issues in 2011, so he doesn\’t appear to be an injury risk moving forward. He recorded 44 receptions for 626 yards and a touchdown in 2012 and the Steelers will need him to step up that production in 2013 with Wallace likely to playing in a different uniform.

  • steeltown

    Not sure what happened to my previous comment, but here goes..

    I like Sanders, I wish he would put on some weight though, maybe get up to 190lbs, but he is an excellent route runner and good downfield blocker. He had some fumble issues last season, but he has a good yds per catch avg and a good third down conv % (31 of his 44rec. in 2012 moved the chains)

    Also think regarding the Restricted players, they should also work on an extension for McLendon, he is the only productive NT we have (at this time) besides Hampton

  • RW

    Absolutely – to everything.

  • Pete

    Agreed steeltown. Sanders is a good WR. The Steelers will try to find another good WR in the draft. Luckily, good receivers are abundant.

    It looks like for now it’s going to be McLendon and Ta’amu with the possibility of Hampton coming back. But if we think about it, McLendon could barely get on the field for Hampton who is in the twilight of his career. In my mind that doesn’t say a lot for their trust in McLendon when Hampton is no longer in his prime.

  • steeltown

    Agreed. If we can finally find a big bodied guy to go along with Brown & Sanders that would be nice and have Cotchery as the ultimate backup/fill in guy.

    I hope Ta’amu has the chance to be the backup next season, but still might be convicted and ultimately released. If thats the case I think newly acquired Fangupo could easily be the #2 guy. In regards to McLendon not seeing the field, I have no idea why he didnt play more. He had 2sacks and a forced fumble with VERY limited playing time, while Hampton had none. Hampton played well and stayed healthy though, so that didnt help McLendons cause.

    I honestly believe in this pass happy league that McLendon is better suited to play on the DL, especially on passing downs, the dude is quick while still being very strong

  • Mike Carroll

    I think there is no doubt any potential contract extension for Sanders will be for much less than the one Brown received, both in terms of money and years. He simply has never had the type of production Brown exhibited in his second season. Obviously part of that relates to the fact he was the third receiver, but that’s the point: he’s never been anything higher than the third receiver on the team. I don’t think the team will be in a hurry to lock him up (unless Sanders is agreeable to an inexpensive deal worthy of a 3rd receiver). Once Sanders is tendered, I think the Steelers will look to find a big wide receiver (or possibly TE) fairly high in the draft and that will affect how they deal with Sanders both this season and in the future.

  • steeltown

    Alot of what happened to Sanders production over the last few yrs was due to his multiple foot injuries, 2012 was the first time he played a full season. When healthy he produced and still accumulated 600+yds as the #3 in 2012 thats pretty good

    But I think you’re right. Obviously KLewis & Foster are probably their biggest concerns when it come to new contracts and if they draft a WR early in the draft and he has a great rookie season, that might change their outlook as to whether they want to lock up Sanders or not…… unless the price is right

  • zyzak

    Well they over paid Brown so hopefully there is enough money for Sanders.

  • I don’t think the Steelers will look to lock him down until after free agency and the draft. If the Steelers can get someone like WR Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round of the draft then I’m sure that will change what they want to pay a 3rd receiver with a history of injuries.

  • I couldn’t agree more. Except the part about the TE.

  • Mike Carroll

    I’d prefer the big wide receiver myself, but I’ve wondered if Haley might be looking to really start featuring two tight ends as New England does.

  • Ahmad

    I think Sanders is worthy of a long term deal. He finally managed to play a full season so that is certainly encouraging. I just hope the guy can pack on a few pounds of muscle. I like his determination over the middle but the guy really can’t take a lick. He’s a great route runner and all but he might wanna bulk up some so he won’t be so fragile.