Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have made the decision to match the one-year, $2.5 million offer sheet signed by restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders with the New England Patriots, the discussion will now move on to whether or not they will be able to work out a long-term extension with him between now and the start of the 2013 season.
As I pointed out in a post earlier in the weekend, the rules of the CBA state that Sanders 2013 base salary of $2.5 million can\'t be lowered. That means any additional money that Sanders were to receive in the form of a signing bonus would be prorated out equally over the length of the extension and added onto his base salary, which would in turn raise his 2013 cap hit.
For example, extending Sanders three additional years and giving him a $6 million signing bonus would result in his 2013 cap number being $4 million.
As they sit here right now, the Steelers have less than $750,000 worth of salary cap space to work with between now and June 2nd when the release of guard Willie Colon becomes official and frees up an additional $5 million plus in cap space after displacement takes place. Should the Steelers work out an extension with Sanders between now and then, they obviously would need to create more cap space via terminations, restructures, or other extensions.
Should the Steelers not work out an extension with Sanders between now and the start of the 2013 season, he will become an unrestricted free agent next offseason. Should Sanders leave via free agency next offseason, the Steelers would be in line to receive a compensatory draft pick for the 2015 draft.