The New York Jets are looking to upgrade their wide receiver positions during the offseason and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders appears to be a free agent on their radar.
According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets covet the services of not only Sanders, but Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin as well. Both will be unrestricted free agents come the start of the new league year.
The Jets will reportedly cut ties with former Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes over the course of the next few weeks and that move will free up $8 million plus in salary cap space in the process.
Sanders, who will turn 27 next month, has expressed interest in re-signing with the Steelers after the 2013 season, but likely knows that unless he is to sign a contract below market value that the chances of that happening are very slim. The Steelers will expect Markus Wheaton to assume Sanders' role in the offense after drafting him last April in the third-round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
As I pointed out in a previous post, Sanders, who had a career year in 2013 in his first season as a full-time starter, figures to be one of the top five unrestricted free agent wide receivers on the market this offseason. In addition to him playing receiver, the Jets could also be attracted to his ability to return both kickoffs and punts as well.
Sanders almost was allowed to walk last offseason as a restricted free agent but the Steelers decided to match the $2.5 million offer sheet that he signed with the New England Patriots right at the deadline. Had they not done so, they would have received a 2014 third-round draft pick as compensation for him leaving.
Being as the Patriots had interest in Sanders at that time, there's no reason to think they won't again this offseason and both they and the Jets could be in competition for his services along with a few other teams looking for a free agent wide receiver.
The Steelers originally drafted Sanders in the third-round of the 2010 NFL Draft out of SMU. Should he wind up signing with another team during the primary portion of free agency, the Steelers will likely receive a 2015 compensatory draft pick as a result.