It was reported early on Saturday that the restricted free agent had signed an offer sheet with the AFC East champs, but those notions were quickly dispelled.
ESPN's Adam Schefter, as he tends to do, came through with the news:
Patriots still mulling whether to sign Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet. So far, no decision made and no offer sheet signed.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2013
Meanwhile, F. Dale Lolley of the Washington Observer-Reporter added some other important details:
The Steelers tendered Sanders an offer of $1.323 million prior to the start of free agency, guaranteeing them the right to match any offer he might receive. The Steelers would have five days to match the offer or receive a third-round draft pick – equal to the round in which they selected Sanders – in return.
Sanders left New England Friday without an offer, and of the 40 restricted free agents who were available in 2012, none changed teams.
That doesn't necessarily mean Pittsburgh is free and clear of losing its second wide receiver in a matter of a week. However NFL.com's Ian Rapaport reported, there are still expected developments to the story:
Emmanuel Sanders still hasn't signed an offer sheet from Pats. No reason to do so before 4 pm deadline and give Steelers extra time to match— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 16, 2013
Would #Steelers match Pats (front-loaded) offer sheet? Too early to tell. Have 7 days. Would have to restructure several (Polamalu, etc)— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 16, 2013
Combine all of the rumors, and you're basically left with: "Wait and see." You're welcome.
Will Emmanuel Sanders be a Patriot in 2013?
Nevertheless, the details in the fabric point towards this situation developing into something serious. Restricted free agents aren't often wrestled away from their teams, but the Patriots have cap room and are in need of another playmaking wide receiver. They could offer Sanders a front-loaded contract that the Steelers—whose cap is a jumbled mess—couldn't match.
In 2012, the third-year receiver pulled in 44 catches for 626 yards (a dangerous 14.2 yards per receptions) and a touchdown behind both Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown.
Give him 16 starts with some guy named Tom Brady throwing him the ball, and he immediately becomes a prime 2013 breakout candidate.
Moreover, you have this developing news from ESPN's Mike Reiss:
Patriots make it official, announcing release of WR Brandon Lloyd.— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 16, 2013
While it's not out of the question they bring back the explosive receiver, the Pats clearly still need help on the outside.
Considering the fact that Sanders will only cost New England a meager third-round pick, this represents a potential move that would bring nothing but improvement to the Northeast.