Every offseason you can count on the fear and the overreaction that the Pittsburgh Steelers will lose one of their restricted free agents to another team. That fear was put on overdrive a few weeks ago when wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders visited with the New England Patriots.
While there is still a possibility that the Patriots could sign Sanders to an offer sheet prior to the April 19 deadline, it is looking more and more unlikely to happen. The Steelers remaining unsigned tendered restricted free agents, running back Isaac Redman and nose tackle Steve McLendon aren\’t going anywhere, and it is silly to suggest that there was even a chance of that happening.
If former Steelers first-round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall could only get a one-year, $2.5 million contract that included a $500,000 signing bonus, and another $1 million through incentives this offseason, what makes you think that a team would be willing to pay Redman more than the $1.323 million tender that he received from the Steelers?
While a lot of people are ready to anoint McLendon as the Steelers starting nose tackle for the next eight seasons, the truth is that he has played less than 400 snaps over the course of the last four seasons. Can he become an eight year starter? You can\’t rule the possibility out, but you also can\’t justify paying him right now more than the $1.323 million tender that he received as well.
Here is a little history lesson for you. In the past four years, only one restricted free agent has signed an offer sheet with an NFL team that went unmatched by his current team. That player was running back Mike Bell, who went from the New Orleans Saints to the Philadelphia Eagles on a one-year deal in 2010. How did that work out?
With 12 days left to go until the offer sheet deadline, the Steelers have just under $2 million in available salary cap space. As far as Sanders goes, that\’s nearly $3.323 million that they have at their disposal to combat an offer sheet from another team. If you were Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, would you pay Sanders $4 million guaranteed in 2013 based on what he has done so far in his career? In addition to that, would you also give up a third-round draft pick in the process?
Sanders has all of 94 catches for 1,290 yards and five touchdowns in three seasons. Those are not exactly eye popping numbers worth $4 million plus. If the Patriots are willing to pay him that kind of money, the Steelers will gladly let him go and take a third-round pick as compensation. They could then turn around and use it on Stedman Bailey, who would help the offense instantly in the red zone, unlike Sanders has done.
Overreaction? Yes, it will always continue, but when you take the blinders off, you will see how cut and dry these restricted free agents have been all along. Unfortunately, several consistently refuse to remove those blinders.