CBA Rules Regarding Contract Extensions As It Relates To Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders

A few people have asked about what rules the New England Patriots must follow in regard to giving restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders an extension should the Pittsburgh Steelers not match the one-year, $2.5 million offer sheet that he signed.

Here is what the CBA says about it restricted free agents and offer sheets:

The player and the New Club may not renegotiate such Player Contract to reduce the Salary in such contract until after the end of the first regular season covered by the Contract. Neither the player nor the New Club may exercise an option in such Player Contract that reduces Salary in the first League Year of such contract until after the end of the first regular season covered by the Contract.

That is pretty straight forward, and in the case of Sanders, it is a straight one-year deal with a $2.5 million salary and does not include any options, LTBE or NLTBE incentives.

So basically, should the Steelers not match the offer sheet, the Patriots can easily extend Sanders with new money in the form of a signing bonus, which wouldn\’t mess with his 2013 salary. While Sanders\’ 2013 cap number would increase with a signing bonus in the new deal, the Patriots have plenty of cap room next year to afford it.

As far as the Steelers go, should they match Sanders\’ offer sheet, they can extend him as well and here is what the CBA says in regard to that:

If the Prior Club gives the Restricted Free Agent a “First Refusal Exercise Notice” substantially in the form of Appendix C, attached hereto, within five days from the date the Prior Club receives an Offer Sheet, but not later than one day before the Draft (unless the parties agree otherwise), such Restricted Free Agent and the Prior Club shall be deemed to have entered into a binding agreement, which they shall promptly formalize in a Player Contract, containing (i) all the Principal Terms (subject to Subsection (e) below); (ii) those terms of the NFL Player Contract not modified by the Principal Terms; and (iii) such additional terms, not less favorable to the player than those contained in the Offer Sheet as may be agreed upon between the Restricted Free Agent and the Prior Club.

In 2001, for example, the Patriots signed running back Chris Fuamatu-Maʻafala to a one-year, $700,000 offer sheet that included a $450,000 base salary and a $250,000 signing bonus. One week after the Steelers matched that offer sheet, they extended the contract of Fuamatu-Maʻafala two more years and gave him an additional $500,000 signing bonus.

So, if I am correctly understanding the language of the CBA, the Steelers, should they decide to match the Sanders\’ offer sheet, certainly have the right to work out an extension with Sanders, but can\’t lower the $2.5 million base salary that he would be scheduled to earn in 2013, as it is a principle term.

So, let\’s say that the Steelers want to extend Sanders contract three more years after matching the offer sheet and give him a $6 million signing bonus. That would add another $1.5 million of signing bonus proration to his $2.5 million base salary and make his 2013 cap hit $4 million. See the problem here as it relates to cap space needed?

The Steelers will get more cap room come June 2nd when the Willie Colon release becomes official, but roughly $1.5 million of that additional cap space will need to be dedicated to getting all of the draft picks signed. They also will need at least a few million for in-season security and might want to add another free agent or two in addition. I laid out other ways that the Steelers could clear more cap room in a post a few days ago, but would be surprised if they went that route to accommodate a Sanders extension.

The more I dissect everything, the more it looks like Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert only has the option of keeping Sanders one more season by matching the Patriots offer sheet, which would result in him being an unrestricted free agent next offseason. I can also now clearly see the Patriots reasoning behind only giving Sanders a one-year, $2.5 million offer sheet.

On the Thursday podcast, I said that I thought the Steelers would match the offer sheet, but am now changing by opinion. When you combine the notion that an extension looks highly improbable, with the idea that Sanders could be disgruntled because he has money waiting on the table for him in New England, I think that Colbert will more than likely not match the offer sheet and take the Patriots third round draft pick as compensation.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    I’ve thought all along that the Steelers would and should match, but if they can’t extend Sanders without reducing the base, that is a significant impediment.

    i don’t buy the “disgruntled” angle. He’s always indicated he is happy as a Steeler and I think he would appreciate them stepping up and matching.

  • hergieburbur

    I think the disgruntled angle is overplayed as well.

  • LucasY59

    Young Money was way too accurate for the group of WR’s all of them want it (most more than they are worth) Sanders production has not been that good, he could have better stats this season (worth the 2.5 mil, but will want even more as a FA) he could stay the same (not worth 2.5 mil,with fumbles drops and only being the 3rd best WR on the team) or could get hurt again (and be a waste of 2.5 mil and a chance at an extra draft pick) I like Sanders and would’ve been glad if he had signed his tender and played well enough to get a bigger long term deal next offseason, but signing another teams offer shows he just wants the $ and those are the type of WR’s the Steelers always get rid of (I know the players in the NFL are there to make $ but it shouldn’t be the only motivation, show some loyalty to the team that gave you a shot to play in the league and make that $, prove you are worth it and then get paid)

  • Nolrog

    This whole thing doesn’t make sense. Why would NE make him a 1 year tender and then immediately sign him to an extension (money on the table in NE)? Why not just give him that full contract as the tender? I don’t see how this is an advantage for NE (If you want Sanders so bad, why not make a multi-year deal with a higher 1st year hit to make sure the Steelers couldn’t match?) Then again, I don’t see why NE would be willing to give up a 3rd round pick for a 1 year rental either. None of this makes any sense.

  • Nolrog

    A 2.5 million dollar 1-year hit is not a significant impediment.

  • zyzak

    Sanders is very low key compared to Wallace and Brown, I think it’s a shame the Steelers didn’t sign him to a 4 year deal when drafted. That policy cost them Wallace and now Sanders. Yeah they get a 4th rd pick but their record lately in the draft stinks

  • It is if you are a team that has less than 2 mill in cap space at the moment.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    That’s just weak.

    I don’t know if Pittsburgh is a communist state but I’m pretty old and I don’t know anyone who has been interested in doing any job for half the rate they could get when it isn’t a charitable cause.

    I don’t know if fans here channel slavery, favor communism or care so much about their fellow man that money just doesn’t matter but it seems to me that there is a severe inability to view things from another persons position that screams mental disability.

  • r4kolb

    You know I really don’t get it. What is it with Sanders that some people are upset about losing him? I’m sure “Dave the Man” can post his stats as far as where he stood vs. the other receiving core through his years here and how he stacked up. Stats like, yards after catch. Catches on 3rd downs leading to first downs. Catches over 20 yards. I know I personally would like to where he falls into the group stat wise. Plus take into account time off the field due to injury. Did he really bring all that much to the table? Dave do you think you could post something to show us the facts/stats on Sanders vs. the other receivers through his years?

  • Eric MacLaurin

    You don’t understand why a team in win now mode would trade a low 3rd round pick for a good veteran WR?

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned that maybe the structure is what it is so that the Steelers could match. Maybe Sanders asked for that instead of accepting a deal that paid the same but was impossible to match.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    This is the issue. The Steelers go with minimum years and minimum tenders that cost players a lot of money and it’s disingenuous at best to blame the player when the team has had the upper hand and done everything possible to minimize the players compensation during that time.

    I think part of the reason the drafts have been weak is that we sign short deals and then take a slow development path.

  • steeltown

    Well the more I think about it the more I think he’s worth the $2.5MIL for just this upcoming season..we would in all likelihood acquire a 2015 comp pick for Sanders when he departs via FA in 2014 and the rookie(s) would have a year under their belts

    BUT in the short term it would mean, no Bradshaw, no Breaston, no Antoine Caldwell or any other FA because if we match we would then have just enough (after June 1st) to sign the rookie draft class, with about $1-2MIL left over for an emergency during the season. I guess alot depends on how much they want Bradshaw, probably why he’s scheduled to visit again in the coming days, check his rehab/status and then make a decision on Sanders….?

  • steeltown

    I agree.. its a contract year if he is not extended.. disgruntled or not, he’ll play his azz off

  • Kenneth Wilt

    They just need to let him go. It is better for all concerned…

  • TsarPepe

    It is also very possible that Sanders did not want a long-term deal with NE if they weren’t going to pony up significant cash. In that case, it is much better for him to be a UFA next season. And knowing the Pats, they didn’t offer him anything close to the kind of long-term money that HE thinks he is worth.

  • I would think in the Pats system, he will have ALOT more balls coming his way which if he stays healthy and catches them, will make a much bigger payday for him next year as a UFA. The Pats probably already have a longer term deal in their back pocket that has already been discussed.

  • steeltown

    I like what Dwyer did.. sign the tender and get ready to compete for significant snaps. Not that I blame Sanders for accepting more money elsewhere, its just Sanders has every chance in the world to be a full time starter this season on the Steelers and earn his big payday whether its with the Steelers or as an UFA next offseason.. but again, i dont blame him, more money and Tom Brady has to be pretty tempting, also we dont know the inner workings, the Pats may have a signing bonus waiting for him as well

  • Ahmad

    Considering all the problems with our WR’s, drafting TE makes more sense now as we can switch to a more 2 TE system once Heath recovers. It’ll help lessen the blow the receiving corps has and will take in the future.

  • He made a smart Biz decision and doubled his salary this year in the meantime.

  • We could probably still get Bradshaw and/or Breaston after the Draft.

  • zyzak

    Forget about Bradshaw he’s done, Breaston is hurt too. Why would they sign players that are hurt all of the time. Caldwell? He’s a bum

  • steeltown

    Well.. i was mentioning them because they have been in for visits, but was implying “any FA” we covet.. and Breaston is fine, the doctors cleared him. I personally think he’d be a steal for a vet minimum and would provide solid depth with experience, like Cotchery but could also help on ST

  • zyzak

    He’s played in 40 games, caught 94 passes 13.7 per catch targeted 166 and 5 tds.
    This playing behind Wallace Brown and Ward. No Ward no Wallace and soon no Sanders. Miller is banged up, they have to match the tender

  • zyzak

    I like how you think, I make a decent amt but if someone offers me double I am gone. Brady will make use of his skills better than Haley

  • steeltown

    Not if we match the offer sheet, if my math is correct, we currently have around $2MIL, add the $5.5MIL from the June 1st designation, thats approx $7.5MIL, we’ll need 4-4.5MIL for the draft rookies, add the $1.2 to match the Pats offer and that would leave around $2MIL or there abouts and they have to keep $1-2MIL in cap room for the regular season

  • I mean if Sanders leaves..if I was Redman, I would be pulling my pen out today

  • I was thinking we needed 1.5 to 2 mill for this years draft class.

  • steeltown

    How so (minus Sweed) all of our WR’s are successful and are coveted by other Teams, thats the epitome of success in the draft

  • steeltown

    Oh totally agree with that, we’ll not only save the extra offer sheet $$$ that we would need to fork out, but also the original tender amount (1.3MIL) as well… would then have plenty to sign a FA or two if needed

  • But my calculator was running in reverse! Ha

  • steeltown

    I think Bryan was saying $1.5 additional cap space from the designation (added to the cap space we currently have) to get the rookies signed. As far as I know it costs over $4MIL to sign a draft class… I could be wrong, especially when adding rule of 51 displacement, I get confused

  • steeltown

    Wouldnt mind at all drafting Eifert, in fact I’d be very pleased

  • Crazy Bone

    Again, the team should accept that they are rebuilding and take the pick. Letting young players go while hanging on to 30 somethings at high prices is not the way to go but the Steelers did it and are paying the price. Accept your medicine and hope for a better roster after a couple of drafts.

  • Nolrog

    No, that’s not what I’m saying. I don’t understand why NE would offer him a 1 year deal with a multi-year extension coming shortly after as opposed to offering him that longer term deal from the start.NE going after him makes sense, and the Steelers taking the pick makes sense, the whole, here’s a 1 year deal that we’ll extend after they let you go.The only possibility I can come up with, is that they will go after him next year as an UFA, and don’t want the Steelers to have the opportunity get him on a long term deal (but even that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Next year, NE’s needs may be very different.)

  • David Edward

    I would say the “match the offer or let him go for the pick” debate has be about as polarizing as the “should they draft Jarvis Jones @ 17 debate”. Quite frankly, I have yet to hear a well thought out analysis on why matching Sanders is the way to go. The closest I’ve seen was a suggestion to match him for the year and then if he walks as a UFA next year the Steelers will get a compensatory pick for him. True, but compensatory picks are awarded based on a net in flow vs. outflow of FA from prior year, relative production of the players and contracts signed. Right now, the outflow has been Wallace, Lewis, Mendenhall, Will Allen, and Mundy. Inflow has been Gradkowski. They are already likely to get a few nice compensatory picks as it stands, but losing Sanders won’t give them an additional 3rd…it might add another 6th. True, they are going to draft a WR either way, so why not take the pick @91 now which is better than a compensatory pick. Otherwise, the Steelers would be essentially renting Sanders for 1 year at the cost of an extra $1.2M and a pick @91…not a great move unless you think he’s the missing piece on a SB team. Also, I still haven’t heard a good argument as to why a WR drafted on day 1 or 2 couldn’t be better for the team in the long run. I guess I’m waiting for something that gives sound football reasoning as to why Sanders is the best #2 WR for the team over then next 4 years or so…I think that may be a hard argument

  • hergieburbur

    Except, in his case, that is not true, since his 1.3 tender factors in, they have over 3.2 million when it comes to him. Still not a great number, but a match is doable.

  • hergieburbur

    I prefer him to any of the top 2 round WRs.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    My guess would be that the Pats and Steelers both came up against the fact that Sanders thinks he will be worth more next year than he is now and is willing to take the health risk.

    The Steelers tried to sneak him through on a low tender and the Pats decided that he is worth 2.5 and a third round pick for a one year test drive.

  • Eric MacLaurin


    His first year as a full time starter under Brady or Ben is pretty likely to lead to a much bigger payday.

  • steeltown

    DeAndre Hopkins is a close 2nd.. but yes, I think Eifert comes with more upside overall (receiving, run/pass blocking)

  • Yeah, they could match it but with such a shallow cap wallet and impending extensions for others next season, it may not be the best business decision for the near future. It’s really a double edged sword depending on what side you choose to fall on.

  • LucasY59

    I was in no way saying I favor communism or slavery (and I think its weak the you accused me of doing so)

    My point was that Sanders wants more money (everyone does) so he can go somewhere else to get it. I don’t think his production has warranted a 2.5 mil salary this season, especially with no long term contract (someone else did)

    the 1.3 mil tender was fair (I’m not faulting him for signing for more since it was offered) he could’ve played for the tender and had a good season, then the Steelers would owe him a bigger contract (or he can go get it somewhere else in free agency)

    Either way Sanders is getting no less than 2.5 mil this season so that’s good for him, I don’t think its good for the Steelers (They have salary cap issues and not everyone can be paid as much as they would like to be) they valued him at 1.3 now he will cost almost double that amount. let him go and take the draft pick

  • Nolrog

    But that doesn’t explain the part where “Sanders could be disgruntled because he has money waiting on the table for him in New England.” I don’t see how that plays to a NE advantage at all. But Dave keeps writing he’s got an extension worked out already, and I just can’t figure out how to make that logic work.I could definitely see Sanders only interested in one year, because he feels he’s going to break out and command a bigger contract. However, considering his injury history, he could easily miss time and put up worse numbers and hurt his stock (and thus be wiling to grab a longer term deal if it was there.)

  • hergieburbur

    Oh I am not saying it isn’t risky to match, just that they have the space.

  • hergieburbur

    I think Eifert is as close to a WR/TE hybrid in this draft as we are likely to get. And I think that is the type of TE we need, looking at the other guys on the roster.

  • That’s the smartest sports comment I’ve heard in a while. And I’m a Steeler’s fan.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I don’t know anything for sure but I can’t imagine Sanders looked at Browns deal and decided he should settle for a small fraction 9 months before unrestricted free agency. I doubt there is a secret deal because both sides would be best served by waiting.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    You are saying that a restricted free agent should go out and prove he is worth something when he just spent 4 years proving it on a budget contract after proving it in college for nothing while the school got paid. Now that he is a restricted free agent that the team decided to put a low tender on to save money another team decides he is worth so much more they will not only pay him but throw in a third round draft pick.

    I think Loyalty should be part of the equation but when the team has control of every financial aspect of your first deal and goes with the cheapest possible option every step of the way I don’t understand why the player is questioned in any way for signing a free agent deal from another team. I think questioning his motives while giving the steelers a pass or even making them out to be a victim is a failure to see the player as a person.

  • LucasY59

    I never questioned his motives (I understand every one wants as much $ as they can get, and its the business of the game) my problem is his play really hasn’t been that good (he has never been more than the #3 WR he would’ve been #2 by default with Wallace gone) so IMO he should take his $ go elsewhere and and the Steelers move on find a replacement in the Draft.

    Also if the Steelers weren’t is such a mess with the salary cap I dont think this would’ve been such a big issue. Signing him at more than what they had “budgeted” him for causes other problems with the team, they probably wont be able to fill all the holes with the draft so they might need the extra 1.2 mil for a FA

  • Kevin Gobleck

    I’d love it if we picked up Eifert!