In an unexpected move, the New England Patriots submitted an offer sheet on restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders on Wednesday, forcing the Steelers to either match their offer or watch helplessly as Sanders jumps ship for Tom Brady and company.
The Patriots just submitted an offer sheet on Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders. some actual restricted free agent movement. Wow— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) April 10, 2013
Cue Bengals fans everywhere twiddling their villain mustaches and laughing in a most evil manner at their division rival's misfortunes.
The move is surprising because signing RFA's is a costly affair. First, a team must submit a salary that is unlikely to be matched by the player's original team. And second, the team must surrender a draft pick commensurate to the type of tag applied to the player. In Sanders' case, the Patriots will give the Steelers their third-round pick if the Steelers fail to match their offer.
According to Adam Schefter, the Patriots' offer is only for a one-year deal, meaning New England would have to sign Sanders to a longer-term deal later on to justify shipping away their third-round pick. The Patriots are generally known as draft pick hoarders, so this move might be signaling an effort to go "all-in" as the Tom Brady window rapidly closes in front of them.
Pittsburgh has until Monday to decide if they would rather retain one of their only remaining wide receivers or content themselves with New England's third-round pick.