Steelers RFA Filtering Process Could Wind Up Costing Them WR Emmanuel Sanders

A few days ago, I wrote about how the Pittsburgh Steelers had made use of restricted free agency as a quick filtering system over the course of the last several years. That practice consisted of them signing draft picks selected in the third round or later to three-year contracts as opposed to four-year contracts like most of the other teams in the league do. This practice, as I described in the previous post, allowed the Steelers to spend less money up front in the form of a total signing bonus and thus lessened the amount of potential dead money should the draft pick not work out.

Over the span of several years, the Steelers never had problems tendering and keeping their restricted free agents that they wanted to retain, as teams just don\’t make it a practice of going after other teams restricted free agents, especially ones that require a draft pick as compensation. This off-season, the last true off-season of restricted free agency as we have come to know it, the Steelers might finally have that filtering system come back and bite them in the ass, depending of course on what ultimately happens with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

Sanders, who visited with the New England Patriots on Friday, has yet to receive a restricted free agent offer sheet from his host as of Saturday night. That could all change over the course of the next few days. The SMU product was the Steelers third-round draft pick in 2010, the year before the new CBA went into effect that now requires all draft picks to be signed to four-year contracts. Had Sanders been signed to a four-year contract after he was drafted, he wouldn\’t have been a free agent until after the 2013 season.

Did the Steelers think that the Patriots would consider going after Sanders after he was given an original round tender prior to the start of free agency? While they certainly knew the risk, I am willing to bet that the Patriots caught them off guard. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick could care less about the gentlemen\’s agreement, or unwritten rule, associated with restricted free agency. If the rules allow it, he will consider it. Anybody remember the Patriots claiming injured New York Giants tight end Jake Ballard off waivers last off-season? The Giants waived Ballard injured in hopes of getting him through waivers unclaimed and onto their PUP reserve list. Belichick scoffed at that unwritten rule, and he made no apologies for it.

“First of all, there aren\’t any unwrittens,” Belichick said last June, after claiming an injured Ballard off waivers from the Giants. “You can\’t negotiate a contract, release him, and then renegotiate another contract with him that was already done in advance. I\’m sure the Giants weren\’t doing that. So the player is on waivers, he\’s on waivers — ours or anybody else\’s. I don\’t know what unwrittens you\’re talking about. …

“Any time you put a player on waivers, you know there are 31 teams out there that can take him if they want him. We all know that. There is no secret about that.”He will make no apologies for signing Sanders, should that wind up being the case. The rules allow it.

The Steelers will have the opportunity to match an offer sheet that Sanders receives, should he indeed receive one. Due to their limited cap space, however, it would not be surprising to see them let Sanders ride off into the sunset to go play with the Patriots. Belichick will issue no apologies should that happen and the Steelers will receive the Patriots third-round pick in the upcoming draft as compensation. That ride off to New England, if it takes place, could have been prevented had the Steelers not try to use restricted free agency one last time as a quick filtering system.

  • Sylky_Mcnasty

    Yes Losing Emmanuel will hurt. But IF we can use this extra third pick to move up into the 2nd and get a worthwhile RB and Safety or LB, I wont be that mad. I fully expect us to take Tavon or Corderelle in the first unless Star or Jarvis happen to be there in this scenario.

  • Garrett Hunt

    I hope we don’t take Cordarrelle in the first. And I wouldn’t rule out Demontre Moore sliding to us as well which would be a nice pick up third behind Star and Jarvis for me. If we did move up in the second I hope we would be in position to take Hopkins.

  • mem359

    Is there anything preventing the Steelers from giving Sanders a new contract now (like they did with Brown last year)? Obviously they don’t want to break the bank, but if they can get a reasonable contract, maybe with a hometown discount, then it doesn’t matter what the Patriots do.

  • Sylky_Mcnasty

    I understand the knock on Corderrelle being raw but his ability to get YAC is impressive and would be a nice fit in the Haley Dink and Drunk offence lol. Unless Demontre has a good Pro Day hes not worth it. If hes going to play OLB hes got to be strong and fast which he did not show at the combine. He did you show nice explosion and agility though,

  • Sylky_Mcnasty

    Hes an RFA so they could offer anything but Sanders would be incredibly naive to not see what the Pats would offer first as a bargaining chip.

  • Garrett Hunt

    I don’t really even know what Cordarrelle being “raw” means. I see him as a kid that can’t run routes and doesn’t have his head in the game (sound anything like Mike Wallace?).

    I wouldn’t put too much stock in the combine for Moore. Just check out his game tape on the football field. It speaks for itself.

  • Jazz

    No! If Sanders departs, keep that 3rd, use it on a much needed player next month. The Steelers will potentially need to draft two WR’s if he does depart. The Steelers cannot afford to trade draft picks away; if you haven’t noticed, that team is going through a transition despite the garbage Kevin Colbert is talking about. That team will need to fill as many holes as they possibly can next month. They can get a decent RB in the 2nd or get one in the 3rd. No need to give away foolish picks.

  • Steelers32

    the only 1st round receiver is Allen, patterson is a head case just waiting to happen

  • Jason White

    When they tendered their RFA’s with the low tenders I assumed they were saving as much money as they could to re-sign Keenan Lewis but then they didn’t make an attempt to bring him back and it makes me wonder, why didn’t they put atleast a 2nd round tender on someone like Sanders and McLendon to scare off any teams tempted to come in and steal them? Especially McLendon considering no compensation is needed to sign him away and so many teams switching to the 3-4 could use his services. Even though I am still bummed about Keenan leaving and I am waiting to see what happens with Sanders I trust Colbert knows what he is doing. My biggest worry is depth at corner which was a strength prior to losing Lewis. I trust Ike and Allen as the 1 and 2. I even trust Gay as the nickel but what I worry about is if Ike or Cortez should go down I have no reason to trust any other corner on the team to step up. Curtis Brown surely hasn’t given a reason to be confident nor has Victorian. I am curious to see what Lake and LeBeau can do with DVD but I still am not confident in the options should an injury occur. I’d be less worried if I knew the defense would get back to its quarterback harassing ways.

  • mghjr88

    – not having undergone processes of preparing
    – crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste
    Now, apply that to Patterson playing wide out

  • Steelers32

    Good chance Hopkins is there anyway, tho personally I would take Hunter at 6’4″ who should also be available.

  • Buccos9

    The more important issue in my view is the size of the tender they gave him. We all know that money has been tight, but if they gave him a $2 million tender instead of a $1.3 million tender, then I believe the compensation from the signing team would be a second rounder. The Patriots would be unlikely to give up a second round pick for Sanders. Because they didn’t give him the larger tender, it suggests that the Steelers are still unsure about Sanders and may be willing to see him walk. His injury history is a red flag.

  • steeltown

    Agreed. I think we have solid 1, 2 and 3 on the depth chart, but you’re right C.Brown needs to make strides this season and I’m hoping that DVD turns into atleast a solid backup (#5)

  • Tim Bodamer

    Let’s be honest. Sanders is talented but injury prone. The Steelers can sign Breaston (when healthy) and get the third rounder. They will get another third-rounder for Wallace next yr. And the new guys will sign for four years so you don’t have to worry about Sanders contract next year. Marcus Lattimore in the third…. And get ready for ’14

  • Sylky_Mcnasty

    I think it all matter what happens in the first. Safety, WR, and RB is pretty deep this year so I think well be fine in those regards, but if we dont get a defensive stud in the first I think well have to think about trying to move up to ensure we can bolster the LB corp.

  • Sylky_Mcnasty

    Thats what they say about Patterson but Tavon Austin is going to be versatile in the mold of Harvin in the slot and will get a first round consideration because of his speed alone.

  • SteelerFanInMD

    I have a similar concern about depth at WR. Brown is the only legitimate starter on the team. What if he goes down with an injury. We are left with old receivers Burress, Cotchery, and what? Two rookies? We can forget about Brown using his talents as a kick returner for sure.

  • Garrett Hunt

    He has been playing football all his life so has undergone the process of preparing. Just the fact that he hasn’t gained what he should have from high school and college should tell you about him.

  • CrRe

    Great points and I agree. Not quite ready to declare him injury prone, at least yet. At this point, however, I almost don’t care who leaves to be honest, haha.

  • zyzak

    Breaston and Lattimore are damaged why in the world would a team do that?

  • mghjr88

    You say “He has been playing football all his life so has undergone the process of preparing”. So, you’re telling me that he has played football since he was young, therefore he is prepared for the NFL?

    “Just the fact that he hasn’t gained what he should have from high school and college should tell you about him”.

    I don’t even know what that means.

  • They never had interest in signing Lewis they were satisfied with getting a 4th rd comp next year same goes for Wallace but he’s a 3rd rd comp. I believe they were also willing to take a 3rd for Sanders to help the dire cap situation by clearing 900K with displacement ;). Also why they didn’t want to give him 2M tender. I’ve been all over this since day one if you wanted to keep Sanders a 2nd rd tender would be enough of a deterrent. And if not better for us. I believe McClendon will get looks bc who wouldn’t want him for 1.323, unless the Steelers did a good enough job of burying him on the depth chart and teams don’t know about him yet. I wil gladly take a 3rd for Sanders bc he’s a #3 WR IMO and he can easily be replaced. I believe this actually improves the team which I assume is against most unknowledgable views of Steelers fans

  • Garrett Hunt

    Not necessarily prepared for the NFL, just should be up to par with that of all the other draftees. If being prepared for the NFL was the requirement for not being raw, then you could saw everyone coming out of college is raw.

    It means that he is below average intelligence even for a football player. Thus, I could see him struggling to grasp route running concepts or offensive game plans that are essential to development. Also, how will he handle his life when all the money starts coming his way. Simplified to a few words Steelers32 said it best, he is a head case just waiting to happen.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Because injuries heal.

  • Melly

    Trade down from 17 and pick up a 3rd & possibly a 4th(depending on how far down we go in the first). Draft Vacarro…if hes not there then Hunter, or Hopkins. If WR in first try and get Reid or Cyprien in 2nd. If Safety in first try and get Hunter, Hopkins, Patton, or Woods. With 2 3rds I would look at S.Moore & Lattimore(plan 4 2014). In the 4th the Oregon MLB…if we have 2 4ths, the MLB and L.Bell from MSU.

    I believe the key is to TRADE BACK 1 or 2 times. I think getting an extra 3rd and 4th RD pick(even a 2014 pick or picks) is crucial for this teams present and future. In 2014 we could possibly be w/o Dwyer,Troy,Ike,Worilds,C.Allen, and Clark’s contract is up. We could still lose Sanders,McLendon, and/or Redman this year!!

    I have faith in the FO………………………….GO STEELERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Superdriller316

    Would it be so hard to think the Steelers put the original round tender on Manny to get rid of him. He’s been in the system for 3 years and hasn’t produced all that much. We have way to many sub 6 foot WR’s. This year there are a ton of them in the draft. I think if Manny is offered a deal the Steelers let him walk and take the draft pick.

    People need to look at the big picture and not just the fans side. We’ve had players in the system 3 and 4 years that have only had 1 ok to decent year, and fans think those players are the next best thing to sliced bread. We don’t have any WR’s that will go up and get the ball, well maybe PLAX, but he’s old. We had a CB who knocked down a lot of balls but didn’t catch any. We need to creat turnovers, if you can get a hand on it to knock it down, why can’t you catch it? We let him walk. Someone had said in a post that its not the CB’s responsibility to make turnovers. I just laughed. You create turnovers with pressure on the QB and he makes an bad throw for our corners to go after.

    So where the Steelers sit right now, I’m ok with. We need tall WR’s who go after the ball and ball hawking CB’s and Safeties. In seeing the Steelers drafting 2-3 WR’s, 2 LB’s, 2 RB’s, Safety, and if Manny walks either OL or DL

  • Jollyrob68

    I’m no surprised someone went after him but I thought it would be the 49ers with their many draft pick. I felt it was a mistake not to lock him up knowing the weren’t signing Wallace.
    Nothing Bill B does is a surprise to me he has a history of going after RFA
    ‘s. That’s how he got Welker
    If Sanders gets an offer I don’t think the Steelers would match it because they’re
    Getting a return of that investment and this draft is loaded with WR. Austin,Swope,Denard Robinson can fill in that slot role. Plus other on the outside. Allen,Hopkins,Rogers,Patton,Wheton & Mark Harrison Rutgers

  • Superdriller316

    I see your concerns, we have backup at corner. DVD, King, Brown, Victorian, and so on. Most have only been in the system one year. I have a ton of faith in Lake to get these youngsters up to speed. If he can the big plus is that DVD runs 4.25 and King runs 4.31. I also believe, the only experience you get is on the field. With this weak ass CBA, practice is for watching game film.

  • sean mcmartin

    Given the current state of the team. Let him walk. Its funny that no cuts have been asked of two high priced players that have not contributed in awhile. Troy and Woodley. Trade troy for a couple pics and woodley if anyone would want him, might as well Fully rebuild, They let so much talent walk away it seems like a waste of Ben and Troy’s final years, let them go and win somewhere that cares about winning. just keep Tomlin he is smart enough to coach players up , Right??
    The only people who care about the Steelers winning this year are the Fans!

  • walter mason

    Yea but we got Spaeth. (sarcasm)

  • walter mason

    I wonder if Wallace would have held out last year if originally given a 4 year contract.

  • Tim Bodamer

    Exactly… Lattimore is the perfect example of low risk and high reward. If he got healthy, he would be an ELITE back. Breaston would come at a reasonable price. I like Manny but he isn’t the end all to the team.

  • Garrett Hunt

    I really like Sanders, especially with what he has shown just as a 3rd receiver. But I would trade Manny for Lattimore ALL DAY.

  • mghjr88

    I understand what it means and I never identified “being prepared” as the sole requirement for not being considered a “raw” prospect. If you want to consider all rookies raw, great, that just makes Patterson rawer(it’s a real word look it up). Regardless, it seems we agree that it would most likely be a big mistake to take a player such as Patterson wtih the Steelers first round pick.