It has been well over a week now since it was first reported that Pittsburgh Steelers restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders had his visit with the New England Patriots, and he has yet to sign an offer sheet with them.
So how much time exactly do the Patriots, or any other team for that matter, have to sign Sanders to an offer sheet? As Field Yates of ESPN Boston noted on Monday, the magic date for Sanders is April 19, as that\’s the deadline for teams to sign restricted free agents to offer sheets in order to give to the team that had the restricted tender on the player five days to match it or decline it prior to the draft taking place. That\’s quite a bit of time.
Whether or not the Patriots are still considering Sanders as an option is anyone\’s guess at this point. If they are indeed planning to sign Sanders to an offer sheet, then they might be watching the Steelers cap situation and offseason moves closely over the course of the next several weeks. With that being said, the situation in Pittsburgh is pretty cut and dry right now. The Steelers currently have just over $2 million in cap space available to them and would have to either cut a player or restructure the contract of another in order to match an offer sheet that the Patriots would give Sanders. You would think that the Patriots would know all of this.
By waiting the extra time, the Patriots are also giving the Steelers an opportunity to workout an extension with Sanders, but unless his doors are blown off by it, he would probably be foolish to sign one right now if he thinks that there is half a chance that he could get more upfront money via an offer sheet from the Patriots.
Another legitimate drawback to the Patriots waiting, however, would be that it gives another team an opportunity to swoop in and sign Sanders to an offer sheet. While that doesn\’t look likely to happen at this point, it is a possibility that can\’t be ignored.
So as it stands right now, everything is in limbo with Sanders until April 19 rolls around. The Patriots have waited this long, and I can\’t see them moving forward, if indeed that is their plan, until the deadline. My gut feeling is that they are going to pass on Sanders, but with head coach Bill Belichick involved in the equation, I wouldn\’t bet much money on that feeling.