I'm torn here. I was very excited about SANDERS coming out of college. This will be a business decision at the end of the day. Is he worth adding more cap stress to the team only to end up gone next year w/ no compensation??? Or do the Steelers have big plans for SANDERS this season in the offense??
Based on the past 20 years the Steelers may as well let him walk. Except for Hines Ward the Steelers don't seem to be willing to pay a receiver a second contract. They must believe that they can find suitable WRs in the draft and get enough production from a rookie to continually allow WRs to seek fame and fortune elsewhere. Over the past 20 years here is a list of Wrs and their tenure with the Steelers (to the best of my knowledge and quick research).
Hines Ward - 14
Yancey Thigpen - 6
Ernie MIlls - 6
Charles Johnson - 5
Plaxico Burress - 5 (initial stint)
Blackwell - 5
Holmes - 4
Wallace - 4
Washington - 4
Hastings - 4
Hawkins - 4
Edwards - 3
Wolson - 3
Sanders - 3 ??
Why would they start now with Sanders? Clearly, the Steelers do not value the WR position as a high priority and I believe their philosophy is to have a stable a capable WRs without a superstar WR eating up cap space. I'm not saying that Sanders is a superstar WR, but they probably believe that they can find his production in the draft. IMO, he's a Patriot and the Steelers will not match the offer sheet, he would be a UFA next year and they certainly aren't paying big dollars to keep him. I'm wondering why they jumped the gun on Brown?
Sanders three year stats: 40 games - 94 catches - 1,290 yards - 5 TDs
Steve Breaston's last three years: 39 games - 115 catches - 1,577 yards - 3 TDs
Who would you sign one year? Can you get Breaston for less than $2.5 million?
Put differently, a starting duo of Sanders/Brown is not going to scare a defense any more than a duo of Breaston/Plax or whoever and Brown. The Steelers were likely to draft another WR anyway. And they have a good track record there, aside from Limas Sweed. The third gives them another opportunity to add youth elsewhere.
Also, if Sanders leaves, the Steelers will have back-to-back seasons with 4 picks in the top 3 rounds. That should help to add youth to both sides of the ball.
I believe Bradshaw & Sanders are tied together now. The monies they will tie up in Sanders for 2013 to match could realistically net them 2 potential starters. Bradshaw being one. Breaston/LLoyd may be the other. If they let Sanders leave and they sign 2...They would be in a better sitaution going into the draft where there would be no panic to pull the trigger early at a position. If they miss at WR in the 1st...There is great depth in the 2nd & 3rd that could net you a starter. Same with RB in the 2nd. No need to pull the trigger unless someone they didn't expect falls. Rds 3 & 4 are filled with quality and even later. I expected them to take a WR with Sanders and I expect them to take a RB even if they sign Bradshaw. Hate to see Sanders go but if I we are going to say goodbye to him anyway after 2013...Give me a 3rd and hopefully Breaston/Lloyd can fill the void. Pile on a rookie or two & I think we may just take a lateral step.
3rd Round Pick
It's really not even close.
I would be very surprised if Sanders signed long term with the Steelers. It would not surprise me if he has a side deal worked out with the Pats* already for a longer deal, and I can see him wanting more than what the Steelers will offer. And, if he is not signable or in the long term plans, even though there might be a slight downgrade this year, I'd let him walk and recoup value while that is still an option.