March 16, 2013
Restricted free agents hardly ever switch teams, but receiver Emmanuel Sanders may be leaving Pittsburgh for New England.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Sanders has signed an offer sheet with the Patriots.
There's no information in the Post-Gazette report about the terms of Sanders' contract with the Patriots, and no other media outlets have confirmed the report. But if Sanders has, in fact, signed an offer sheet, that would mean the Steelers have one week to either match the Patriots' offer or let Sanders go and receive New England's third-round pick in this year's NFL draft.
The Patriots have more cap space than the Steelers this season, so it wouldn't be hard for New England to structure the contract in a way that makes for a big cap hit in 2013, which the Steelers would have a hard time matching.
Sanders caught 44 passes for 626 yards last season in Pittsburgh, and he also returns punts, which is a need for the Patriots after losing Wes Welker, who was their primary punt returner last year. But if the Patriots add Sanders they'll also lose their third-round draft pick. And they've already traded away their fourth-round pick for Aqib Talib, their fifth-round pick for Albert Haynesworth and their sixth-round pick for Chad Ochocinco.
Pittsburgh, which already lost receiver Mike Wallace in free agency, currently has only three receivers on its roster: Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress.