Could The Steelers Match A Patriots Offer To WR Emmanuel Sanders?

Now that Pittsburgh Steelers restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is busy making a visit to the New England Patriots, several people are wondering if the organization will try to retain their former third round draft pick, should he sign an offer sheet, and if they do, where will the extra cap space come from to do that?

First off all, the Steelers need to deem if the offer is fair. Is it more than Sanders is worth? Second, how high is the 2013 cap hit on the offer sheet? These are things that are impossible to answer right now.

Assuming the offer is fair, and assuming they need just a few more million in cap space to match the offer, do the Steelers have the means of creating that space?

They could release wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery and cornerback Justin King, but that would only clear an additional $790,000 in cap space after displacement. Whacking kicker Shaun Suisham would only save roughly $600,000 after displacement, but then they would be left with one inexperienced kicker on the roster. That\’s not smart.

Cut Brett Keisel, you say? Yeah, that\’s not too smart, either, considering the Steelers don\’t have depth on the defensive line.

Extend the contract of tight end Heath Miller in a hurry? Agents love it when organizations are pressed to get a deal done, so that\’s not likely to happen quickly.

Restructure Troy Polamalu and/or Ike Taylor? No, that\’s not wise to push off potential dead money into 2014.

As you can see, there are not many options here and based on the fact that the Steelers likely still want to add a few more low priced free agents, including maybe a few of their own. Matching an offer sheet to Sanders, should he indeed get one, is not likely to happen. Instead, they would most likely take the third-round draft pick that they would get as compensation for their loss and move on.