One of the biggest news stories of the offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers happened when restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders signed a tender with the New England Patriots. Of course, the Steelers decided to match the offer and retain his service for the 2013 season, but what does the future hold?NFL Draft by selecting two prospects Markus Wheaton (third) and Justin Brown (sixth). With those two in the fold, the team now has three wide receivers signed past the 2013 season (Antonio Brown). Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress are all unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.
Extending Sanders prior to the season is somewhat an unlikely proposition. For the first time in his career, he will have a chance to start and could have a career season opposite Brown in this offense. While the Steelers may want to get a deal done, Sanders may be the one who decides to roll the dice. That is a two-way street though, as Sanders has had an extensive injury history since the Steelers drafted him in the third round out of SMU. With so many foot injuries in his past, he may look to cash in when he has a chance.
One of the interesting facets of his offer sheet was that it was only for the 2013 season. For many, it gave the impression that there was a handshake deal in place for beyond this season. If there was, Sanders must have a number in his head that could act as a negotiating point. Unfortunately, for the Steelers, even if they negotiate an extension, they will not save any money under the cap, as the collective bargaining agreement specifies how extensions with players on a matched tender can be handled.
Couple that with the fact that the Steelers have had recent success drafting wide receivers, and it would be hard to imagine Sanders being at the top of their list for an extension. Could it happen? Absolutely, it could. At this point, it would appear doubtful though.
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