Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders Looking For A Very Good Long-Term Deal

As expected, the talk about Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who had his one-year, $2.5 million offer sheet that he signed with the New England Patriots matched on Sunday, has now shifted to whether or not a long-term deal can be worked out between now and the start of the 2013 season.

Sanders agent Jordan Woy reportedly told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Monday that his client is indeed looking for a long-term deal right now, but is also open to becoming an unrestricted free agent next offseason if one can\’t be reached.

“We are open to discussing a multiyear contract,” Woy said, via the report. “We are also open to him playing the year out.”

Here is the kicker from Woy.

“It would have to be a very good deal for us to sign a multi-year agreement.”

Sanders, who was present on Monday for the first phase of the Steelers offseason workouts, reportedly had teams other than Patriots interested in him as a restricted free agent this season.

“We had several teams make offers in free agency so we know there are teams who really like Emmanuel,” Woy claimed.

So, Woy admits that a long-term deal by now would have been ideal, and if indeed that is the case, you have to wonder why Sanders didn\’t get one via an offer sheet, being as, according to him, so many teams reportedly had interest in his client.

To me, this sounds like a classic case of agent speak and posturing.

So what now?

As I have pointed out previously, getting a long-term deal done with Sanders between now and the start of the season will be tough to do being as the Steelers have a limited amount of cap space to work with until June 2nd rolls around. Even when they do free up another $5 million plus after the release of Willie Colon becomes final, they will not have a lot of extra cap space to play with. Maybe $1 million or slightly higher at tops.

Can a new deal get done by the start of the season? Yes, but it will take both sides to get it done and perhaps a little creativity.

According to the rules of the CBA, Sanders can\’t have his $2.5 million base salary lowered, so any signing bonus given to him as part of an extension will only make his cap hit go higher, and as previously stated, the Steelers won\’t have much to play with.

If indeed Woy sticks to his guns, you would figure that he would not be interested in having his client take anything less than $6 million as a signing bonus on a three year extension. If he is willing to take less than that on a three-year extension, and make up the rest in a second year roster bonus, perhaps there is a chance that a deal could be reached before the start of the season. Not knowing his asking price, however, makes it all too hard to speculate, but we will try just the same.

The Steelers gave wide receiver Antonio Brown an $8.5 million signing bonus as part of his five-year extension that he signed last offseason. He was also given a $2.5 million roster bonus for this season as part of the deal. As a result, the amount of money that he will pocket in his first two years of his extension, when you include his base salaries, will be $13.54 million.

Does Sanders deserve that kind of money yet? I think that all of you probably answered no to that.

Would Sanders and Woy take $12 million in the first two years of a new deal? If so, what would such a deal look like?

If Sanders\’ 2013 and 2014 base salaries were $2.5 million and $3.5 million respectively, that would put him at $6 million over two years. Giving him a $4 million signing bonus and a second year roster bonus of $2 million, would total him out at $12 million after two years.

So what would the cap hits look like for Sanders in 2013 and 2014 based on those numbers?

In 2013, his cap hit would be $3.5 million, which the Steelers could possibly swing, and in 2014, assuming his $2 million roster bonus was turned into a signing bonus next March, his 2014 cap hit would be $5.17 million. The final two years of base salaries would of course need to be negotiated out, but if they were $6 million and $8 million respectively, we are looking at a four year take of $26 million, which breaks down to a yearly average value of $6.5 million. Brown\’s yearly average value of his new deal was $7.087 million.

So what about the Steelers cap liability after the first two seasons? Based on a $4 million signing bonus and a $2 million restructured roster bonus, Sanders could be cut after the first two years with only $3.33 million worth of dead money left to eat.

As you can see, the numbers can be made to work, but only if Woy and Sanders are reasonable with their demands. If they are expecting the same kind of money that Brown received last offseason, Sanders will have to play out the 2013 season and take his chances as an unrestricted free agent next offseason. If that winds up being the case, he better hope he has a 70 catch, 1,000 yard season in 2013 and plays in all 16 games.

Regardless, a new deal, if one is to be reached, will not happen until the start of training camp, so we have all summer to speculate what may or may not happen.

  • steeltown

    What??? He does not deserve a “very good deal” yet.. not yet anyway.. $6MIL avg, sorry Sanders.. you are however worth $2.5MIL a season, so that is what they paid you. When it comes down to it, 5TD’s in 3yrs can be reproduced by almost any player. For example, our former 7th Rd pick David Paulson could in all likelihood amass 5TD’s in the next couple seasons, doesnt mean he’ll be due a fat contract

    Brown got his BIG deal because he had a break out season, showed the tenacity Teams covet and produced as a WR and KR… Sanders has not produced as of yet, not yet and in no way is he worth anywhere near what Brown is being paid.
    After this season maybe he will be due a nice payday, like Bryan said 1,000yds will help his case, but at this point, you are worth $2.5MIL a season

  • mokhkw

    This is why I personally would have let him go. I like him as a player, but we’re in a no-win situation with Sanders. He won’t take a deal from the Steelers this year, preferring to play out the year and hit FA.

    If he has a poor year or gets injured again or has more drops and fumbles then the Steelers likely won’t want him.

    If he has a good or great year he’ll be too expensive to sign.

  • r4kolb

    Too funny. This is why a lot of us said take the pick and bye bye Sanders you overrated, often injured, no better then a #3 receiver. What on Earth the Front Office was thinking with him I would like to know. You know he’s going to play like Wallace did last year with lack of concentration and playing not to get hurt. Lets see the kind of year the “One Trick Pony” Wallace has now that Ben isn’t throwing to him.

  • LouPGH

    I hate to pile-on, but this is exactly what I — and 8/10 other readers of this site — said was going to happen.

  • grw1960

    Now with Sanders in the fold. It allows the Steelers to Draft a WR in any round that can be developed for the future and gives them some insurance if the one they draft does not pan out.
    They could still draft one in the upper rounds, but having Sanders allows them to wait till the later rounds if they wish to.

  • steeltown

    What it comes down to.. is he worth $2.5MIL for ONE season, the FO seems to think so and if he stays healthy and produces as a WR and KR in 2013 then I have to agree with them

  • steeltown

    Agreed. Lets face it, we have no idea how the draft is going to play out, what if players that have higher grades than projected WR’s fall to the Steelers in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Rds… with so many positions of need they will not reach just for a WR, they will take the player with the higher grade, regardless of position… as much as I would like one of the top 3 or 4 WR prospects or Tyler Eifert, its wishful thinking to assume we will get em

  • Bob Francis

    Losing Sanders would have left a pretty thin WR corps, so I think it’s probably good to have him this year. But I still hope the Steelers draft aggressively for offensive playmakers. I’d like to see them take 2 WRs in the draft – one early, one mid or late. We also need a RB, and I’d love to see them take a pass-catching TE if one falls into their lap. We need some players for depth and development on Defense, but Offense has been the problem in recent years. Not enough points!

  • For an extra million bucks, it buys us some time to find his eventual replacement without having to reach. I am not sure what his agent is smoking but I guess it is his job to “market his player up” so I would have to think it is a one year and gone. That being said, did the Patriots do this to the Dolphins with Welker? Did Miami match and end up trading him to them anyway on draft day? Maybe since there is a lot of interest from other teams according to his agent, that a draft day trade is not entirely out of the question…maybe even one better than what they were to receive from the Pats? Highly unlikely I guess but this is a strange year for the Black and Gold. In any event, it does not help his cause to publicly air his intentions a day after the Steelers matched him.

  • Ahmad

    The deal you described Dave sounds more than fair for Sanders. Whether Sanders would agree to something like that remains to be seen.

  • David Edward

    Lol…no surprise there. I can only imagine the amount of booing he is going to receive after his first drop…if he fumbles like he did last year, he may become the next Cliff Stoudt for those of you old enough to remember. As a fan, I wish him success as part of the team for ’13, but I really don’t see many scenarios where signing him long-term is going to work out.

    I’ve posted previously as to why a draft pick at WR has more value than Sanders in the long run. I’ll reply below with a bit more on that subject…

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Back to why I said take the extra third pick draft Austin in the first thats insurance your getting a good wr with potential the draft has most of its quality in 2-5 so reall your gambling with house money if we need damn near every position your best bet is to take BPA and we can still get a tall target later in the draft and please I respect other fans decision to dislike my comments but please let me know why so I can also know your thought process

  • David Edward

    Totally agree with you Reg, only problem is that it’s unlikely Austin will be there @17. Right now he’s got a shot at going top 10 and there are very few scenarios where he would fall to 17. Based on that info, who would be your next choice for Steelers?

  • westernsteel

    Yep, the offense definitely struggled scoring points last season. Despite keeping Sanders, I agree with you, I hope they still draft two WR, because they may figure that Sanders will want more money than they can afford. They better stock up now.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I like woods hunter and Bailey and if that scenario plays out where he goes earlier I’m hoping they pass on Patterson which I don’t think they will

  • Luke Shabro

    We all would have loved a third round draft pick that may have yielded a Steadman Bailey or some receiver that ends up being a value pick but there is no guarantee at all that he would’ve been a huge contributor right away. I’m not saying Sanders is going to save the Steelers but do you really want to go into the season with Antonio Brown, Cotchery and Burress as your top 3 wideouts? We’ll see if Gilreath makes the 53. Wallace contributed as a rookie but there wasn’t a ton of pressure on him with Hines and Santonio as the starters. A bird in the hand I guess. Our best bet is to get a receiver in the first three rounds and hope he can develop enough in his first year to be ready to roll next year when Sanders leaves for bigger money. I for one am not angry about Sanders agent talking about how they want bigger money. Of course they do! The NFL is a business. I don’t think Sanders will have as much of a lame duck year as Wallace. He doesn’t have the explosive, take the top off the coverage speed that Wallace does and doesn’t even have the production record that Wallace does. If he really wants the money this year he has to be productive so I think he will work harder than Wallace but only time will tell. Step away from the ledge, Steeler Nation. We will be ok. Ben may not be able to win the MVP with average receivers but he’s no Blaine Gabbert either. In Colbert we trust!

  • hergieburbur

    Like Dave said, hard to say how much is posturing, but if what Woy says about multiple offers is true, then of course he is going to look for more in a multi-year deal. I am not sure that would change our decision to match though. The move was as much about buying time this year as it was about keeping him to negotiate long term. And if he doesn’t have a great year or gets hurt, his price stays low.

  • Austin is probably already gone by 17 but regardless I think if they grab Cooper in the first, Hopkins or a Safety in the second and Bailey or a Safety in the third, they will have already covered some major needs and at the same time getting the BPA’s.

  • steeltown

    Well said

  • David Edward

    If you do the math, and say $124M cap divided by 51 you get $2.4M per player. Obviously there are going to be guys who have higher cap numbers than $2.4, but for every one of those you need guys under to offset. Plus you need to offset dead money too. So teams need to choose wisely when handing out big contracts. They really only can have a handful of these guys who should be considered their core players. With the rest, they have to find value in terms of production vs. price. Nothing provides more financial value than a draft pick that is highly productive. Take Pouncey for example, Steelers had All Pro play from a C who has yet to even reach the average cap number. Sanders @ $2.5M, interestingly, will be playing ’13 for just about the average. But, long-term he is likely looking for a contract that would at least double that number per year. That puts a lot of pressure on the team to find guys at low cost to offset that. In other words, somewhere on the roster they’ll have to offset Sanders increase (if they sign him long-term)with draft picks (or undrafted) rookies. For example, Steelers pick @ 17 will roughly be for 4 yrs @ $8M or so…@48 4 @ $4M…@ 79 4 @ 2.8M. All of those, if productive, will provide much more financial value than Sanders.

  • Eric MacLaurin


    Sanders has never been a starter for a full season and has worked his entire life to be able to go to the market next year and get the one big contract of his entire life. Even if he isn’t the best WR in the NFL he is one of the top few WR on the entire planet. The idea that a player like this would like a long term deal now is just as reasonable and is also compatible with the idea that he is fully confident that he will have by far his best season to date simply because he is a starting WR for the first time.

    He has no reason to compromise beyond the cost of insuring his health this season unless someone is going to give him a contract that averages what he has done with what he expects to do this year (minus a team bonus for possible injury) I think it’s to be expected and to the benefit of both parties to play out the season.

    That said the contract difficulty is being a bit overstated. There is money that can be deferred until next year with several players. They could easily defer a few million with Woodley, give it to Sanders and then give him a minimum base salary next year to make room for the extra money that was deferred.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    That’s why he signed the deal and decided to wait to sign long term. Players don’t sign contracts to pay them for what they did in the past it’s for the production you expect in the future.

  • steeltown

    Not sure there was a long term deal on the table, so he may not have had a choice

    I think ‘players’ do sign contracts based on what they’ve done… ‘Organizations’ on the other hand offer contracts based on both past production and production they expect in the future

  • Pete

    Teams will look at Sanders’ potential and understand he had some injuries to explain his lack of production over 3 years. What we do know is that he’s a young, polished route runner and has good after-catch ability. If he can show he has put his foot problems behind him, he’ll be in for a significant pay day come free agency next season.

    My feeling is that the Steelers will be hard pressed to sign him if he follows the example of Wallace. Mark McGuire back in the day said what’s the difference between a million or two when you have a multi-million dollar salary. McGuire would rather not quibble over the numbers but to most of these young players they want to make as much as they can before they go out. Lets see whether Sanders is more like Wallace or AB.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Not mentioned is what if Sanders gets hurt before any longterm contract, because in his case he has a history of foot-ankle problems, more injuries than Wallace ever had. Steelers & any team going too say lets see you Sanders survive one full season before knowing how big of a deal to offer Sanders.

  • moderatelysane

    If he wasn’t worth extending 2 months ago, he isn’t worth extending now. Steelers don’t usually let their wr price be driven by the market. If he earns a good contract, then offer him accordingly. The level to which he’s earned a big contract hasn’t changed since the off season began.

  • moderatelysane

    For the naysayers, I agree 100 percent with Dave and dave; a year from Sanders with performance consistent with past production is worth 2.5 M, especially with Sanders having a year of experience with the rosetta stone offense. Draft 2 wr this year, let him walk for the comp pick next year if his price is too high.

  • steeltown


  • r4kolb

    I think the questions you need to ask is, having him for 1 season vs what you could be getting with the 3rd round pick, which if successful would be in your system for 4 years. Also you have to look at the drop off between Sanders and who would have replaced him. I’m guessing that would be Cotchery. Is he Sanders really that much better? If you say yes what has he done to make you think that? He’s an average at best receiver. I wish Dave would put up some stats for us to see where Sanders stacked up vs the other receivers.

  • Dan

    I think we did need to keep him, just to get through this year, but we have no leverage in signing him long term for now. From his perspective, he’s already seen there is market interest in him at least from the Pats. He’s seen Wallace get a fantasy deal and Brown get a decent deal. From our perspective we can’t do anything to reduce his 2013 base and get cap relief. Unless there is some unusual interest from the Sanders camp in getting something done now, I just don’t see it likely. If I was Sanders agent tell him to really shine this year and get something bigger next year. Oh yeah, hold on the damn ball after you catch it!

  • steeltown

    I know, everyone (including myself) have said that regarding the potential 3rd Rd pick, but that is sort of irrelevant, first we dont know who they would draft, Safety or LB or WR or whoever and second, there is no way to assume or gauge production of said player

    I’m not sure what the FO’s exact thinking was, but I would guess its the fact that Sanders is a good fit for Haley’s Offense and the fact that he can return kicks. He has the potential to be dangerous in the return game. I for one, would get my monies worth out of him this year and would have him returning kickoffs


    Sign Cortez! We are going to have to cut Ike next year with his 10.5 million. he should be their top priority. We lose Cortez we are in trouble. remember Chad Scott.

  • Superdriller316

    Sound like Manny’s agent is Harrison’s agent. A lot of teams want my guy. I guess that’s what they are paid for, to stur up a buzz for their client.

  • Superdriller316

    I’m all for 2 WR’s. I hope they are tall aggressive types too. I think the points issue is this. We get a lead and then sit on it and hope the D can hold. Since Ben’s been here we’ve averaged around 23 points per game. We need to take the cuffs off and start running up the scoreboard.

  • tricitysteel

    You have to remember, Sanders will be a first time starter in 2013. His stats will go up just because he will play more snaps. So he should easily increase his 44 reception 600+ yds. of production barring injury. More than likely no rookie receiver would match that because it is difficult to learn to read defenses and learn to be a good route runner. That is why the organization doesn’t let rookie receivers play much. Management made the right decision to bring him back, even if only for one year.

  • r4kolb

    First Mr.Steeltown please understand you and I are both Steeler fans. That being said to say Sanders is dangerous as a kick returner is based on what? He only returned kicks after Antonio Brown became to valuable to do it. Then if I’m not mistaken Rainey took over. Plus I know when A. Brown did it, and Rainey for that matter, you thought he…could….go…all…the…way. I don’t know about you but I don’t get that from Sanders. To be honest I believe Gilreath returning would be just as good. (In college Gilreath set UW records for kickoff return yards in a season, also led the Big10 and ranked 14th nationally for punt returns). So to me the return part of Sanders game is a moot point. If you think he’s that much better then Cotchery well then we will have to agree to disagree. If I get some time I will try to research his stats to see where he ranked with the other receivers.

  • steeltown

    Well I think, not only were they trying to reserve Sanders who had just gotten fully healthy last season, but also they drafted Rainey in part to be a return guy because he was so dangerous in college, that obviously was a failed attempt BUT in regards to Sanders as a KR, he was great his rookie season (628yds on 25att) thats over 25yds per avg. on kickoffs. Obviously the following yr Brown returned kicks mainly due to Sanders breaking his foot in the SB the year before and had multiple surgeries in the offseason and as we all know, over the next year he would miss siginificant time due to ongoing foot issues…. I guess my point is when he was healthy, he was a threat in the return game

  • r4kolb

    Are you Sanders agent? 🙂

  • steeltown


    No,. I just think now that we did match the offer, I’m going to support the decision, BUT also I want the most out of him and the money we spent and that would mean playing WR and contributing as KR.
    I agree that Gilreath has alot of upside in the return game as well, I actually hope he makes the Team this year, we could then mix and match punt returns vs kick returns between Sanders and Gilreath

  • Should of took the pick and let this unloyal bum go too New England