Extend Sanders Now To Avoid Yearlong Farewell Tour

By Jeremy Hritz

What can we expect from Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in the 2013 season? After being courted by the New England Patriots, Sanders signed an offer sheet that many believed the Steelers would not match. However, by the end of the matching deadline, Sanders had been retained, and the Steelers did not acquire an additional third round draft pick, to the chagrin of many in Steelers Nation.

The detrimental effects of Mike Wallace and his egocentrism are still fresh in the minds of his former teammates, coaches, and fans, and a repeat experience with Sanders has to be avoided at all costs. But could Sanders cause similar disruptions to Wallace of a year ago?

More than likely not.

While an extra third round pick was appealing, having a veteran receiver on board, especially in the wake of Wallace’s departure, was simply too important. Many questioned Sanders loyalty to the Steelers following his signing with the Patriots, but he did his best to make amends after discovering that the Patriots offer had been matched by saying, “Glad the business side is out of the way. Now it’s back to playing football and bringing number 7 back to Pittsburgh.”

Nearing the end of May, there are reports that Sanders and the Steelers are working on a contract extension, business that Sanders says he is not concerned about. His agent, as Dave Bryan pointed out earlier this week, Jordan Woy, has said that Sanders is willing to go the Wallace route and play out the season to become an unrestricted free agent next year.

If an extension is not reached, could this cause another headache for the Steelers? The even greater question is this: is Sanders even worth an extension?

While matching the Patriots offer says that the Steelers believe so, when looking at Sanders’ production during his first three seasons, there are some questions. Take a look at his career stats below:

Year

Catches

Yards

TDs

Fumbles

2010

28

376

2

0

2011

22

288

2

0

2012

44

626

1

2

2012 was Sanders most productive year, as he nearly doubled his output from 2010 and 2011, catching at least one pass in 15 out of 16 games. However, he did turn the football over twice, fumbling the football in consecutive weeks against the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens. Sanders did demonstrate that he can make the clutch catch on third downs, but he must also show that he can protect the football better.

Sanders has also had some health issues, specifically with his knee and foot, which limited his contributions in the 2011 season. Thankfully, he made it through all of 2012 without any major injuries. This must continue for Sanders to be a meaningful contributor in 2013.

Is Sanders a 1000-yard receiver worthy of a contract extension? Not yet. But can he put up those type of numbers in the upcoming season, especially one where he is playing for a contract? Most certainly.

It is not a stretch to forecast that Sanders will amplify his production this season based on his 2012 jump in catches and yardage. If he does have a solid statistical season, and if the Steelers have not yet extended his contract, Sanders will be as good as gone, which is why if they do want to keep him for the long haul, now is the time to make it happen.

If Sanders’ contract is extended, it will show that the Steelers believe in his ability. If they don’t, it may be a quiet endorsement of rookie Markus Wheaton.

  • dgh57

    Good thing we drafted Wheaton, J. Brown and I like J.D. Woods through free agency as a plan B!! So either way we’re covered!

  • SteelerFanInMD

    I don’t blame Sanders or question his loyalty for accepting the Patriots offer. He hadn’t hit the big payday yet in his young career and an extra million dollars means a lot to him. There would have been no benefit to him turning down the Patriots’ offer and sticking with the Steelers lower-salary, original-round tender. The Steelers could have put a higher-round tender on him, but they took the risk that Sanders wouldn’t get an offer. It was just business as usual in the NFL and it ended up working out in Sanders’ favor.

  • Dom

    I really don’t see J. Brown making the 53 man roster.

  • dgh57

    I learned never to count anybody out after Beachum made the roster!

    J. Brown was the go to guy for Landry Jones at OU. He sure didn’t become that because he wasn’t a good WR! So he must of been doing something right! I have to see what he can do on the field before I know whether he makes the team or not!

  • http://twitter.com/softdrums Shea Fahr

    Exactly, let’s at least get a preseason game or 2 in first. Until then, it is an open competition.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Wilkes420 Christopher Wilkes

    If we sign him now, and based on his production to this point, I would think we’d get him on the cheap. I also think Sanders would be smart to play the contract out, but that’s a big gamble considering his health issues.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Wilkes420 Christopher Wilkes

    Yeah, it’s those damn Patriots that everyone should be hating on.

  • Jazz

    Why not? Give the kid a chance, you never know. Most people only look at the round a player was drafted in. I wouldn’t be surprise if Burress ends up being the odd man out. Lets not forget, this kid can return punts/he plays special teams.

  • Jazz

    I agree 100%. But like I said earlier, lets see what he can do as a full time starter.

  • Jazz

    True, but have you listen to the recent comments of his agent? They think they are going to get a huge contract.

  • Steve

    How can we say that we got Sander Cheap??? My Grandmother has been in the grave for 10 years and she could have made 44 catches and ONE Touchdown!!! He needs to hold onto the ball and get into better shape. Them 2 fumbles cost us dearly. The guy is not ALL WORLD, he is just a below average WR who took the Steelers to the bank and turned his back on his team by signing with our arch rivalry (Pats). I would call that a traitor, if you ask me, and if he don’t do any better this year we need to ship him to Siberia, good riddance.

  • CP72

    To be honest I can’t believe we matched the offer from the Patriots, much less talking about a long term extention. In his “career” year he catches 44 balls and 2 tds!?! Oh and by the way this is also a guy that has had problems staying healthy before last year.
    Sanders is WAY overrated in my opinion. I am hoping Markus Wheaton the next Colbert “find” so we can use our cap space for other things. There has to be cheaper options that can catch 30 balls and a couple of tds per season.

  • CW

    No harm in at least seeing what it will take to sign Sanders over the long term. But his production really should dictate terms. He’s never had a 1,000 yard season and he hasn’t set the world on fire in punt or kick returns either.

    I don’t see the Steelers management breaking the bank for a guy that hasn’t produced yet, but if they can get him signed to a two or three year deal at a lower pay range for wide receivers, which means 1.5 to 3 million anymore sadly, I’d rather have them do it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Wilkes420 Christopher Wilkes

    Shush! You’re drooling on your shirt. If you’ll notice I didn’t use past tense, but rather speculated on a possible future extension for Sanders based on his career production. Call him what you want; a #2 or #3 receiver. Fact is, when we run our 3 receiver sets, he’s good enough to be out there, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him there for a few more years.

  • r4kolb

    I think the one guy I like and everyone overlooks is Gilreath. I think he may work his way into the rotation this year. Bring on the preseason!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Wilkes420 Christopher Wilkes

    Right. Well, what agent doesn’t think his client will get paid?

  • Steve

    Chrissy – If you had a BRAIN you’d be dangerous. On the field I use to make players like you into mush. I grew up in the slums on the North Side and was proud to live off Federal Street. I worked at Ralstons Sunoco across from #9 Police station for 3 years while going to school in the Fulton Building. You probably lived off Daddy’s paycheck and hung onto Momma’s apron string. I use to swim in the Ohio River and catch Carp and Catfish next to the Prison at Woods Run. I remember taking a Pony League team into the Prison on this weekend and ate Peanut Butter Sandwiches that the prisoners made themselves. Get a life Creap!

  • JC

    It would be nice to extend him but I wouldn’t break the bank over it.

  • HarryBackside

    Can’t extend Sanders without increasing his cap number this season. When the Steelers matched the Patriots offer, they were agreeing to match the principle term of the deal which was a salary of $2.5M in 2013. Any contract extension the Steelers offer Sanders has to include a $2.5M salary this year. I doubt Sanders will sign any deal that doesn’t include ant guaranteed money, so tack the pro-rated amount of his signing bonus onto $2.5M and that would be Sanders cap number for 2013.

  • LouPGH

    You are entitled to your opinions on Sanders. I personally don’t think he’ll put up big numbers this year, and, unlike Wallace, Sanders won’t have past performance or speed to fall back on. However, I’m not sure how any of what you just said changes the fact you read his comment incorrectly.

  • steeltown

    Agreed.

  • steeltown

    I don’t think he should be extended.. meaning he’s gone after this season. With young guys like Wheaton, JD Woods and J.Brown on roster we don’t not need to overpay for a player who has not yet shown to be worth 20 or 30 million dollars. Our fullback caught as many TD’s as Sanders last season.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    LMAO, what is wrong with you? Stop telling me where you lived and what high school football team you played for. Why do you think I care, and how does any of that pertain to the discussions on this site?

  • Dan

    How could we get him cheap if the smart thing for him to do is play his contract out? It takes two to make a deal.
    If he can learn to hold on to the ball and stay healthy I think he would be valuable. I’d be fine with paying him $2.5m per year in a long term deal at this point, but I highly doubt he’d take it.
    If he plays under the one year deal and has a steller season, then we’ll have a good year and get a good compensatory pick in 2015 (unless somehow we cough up the $ to pay a guy after a good year). If he has a poor year, then we’ll have not lost too much. If he has an average year, then we’ll see.

  • Steve

    You BOY, you started the shit, and I’m just stirring the pot punk.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    All I did was say you sounded like an idiot for saying Woodley sounded like an idiot, which you did. I just called it like it is. In return, all you’ve done is drive my point home. Thank you for that. However, no one cares about you or what you’ve done; certainly not me. It has nothing to do with anything on this site or what’s been discussed. You’re not stirring the pot. You’re spewing crazy talk from your mouth. You sound worse than any Steelers player I’ve ever heard boasting about yourself and your high school football accomplishments as well as your fishing exploits lol. You crazy, BOY!

  • Christopher Wilkes

    Think you answered yourself with your first sentence. Obviously if he stays healthy this year he’s bound to have career highs in production. With that being said you’d have to think he’s cheaper at this point then when he’s a free agent and has more leverage.