Why the New England Patriots Should Pass on Emmanuel Sanders

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMarch 19, 2013

December 23, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (88) reacts after making pass reception for a first down against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Cincinnati Bengals won 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Over the weekend reports circulated that the New England Patriots were looking to bolster their wide receiver corps by signing restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders of the Pittsburgh Steelers to an offer sheet.

It appears now that those reports may have been premature, and the Patriots are being very smart by reconsidering that decision.

As Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, while Sanders has visited with the Patriots the 26-year-old left Beantown without signing on the dotted line.

A team source said the Steelers were told by Sanders' agent, Jordan Woy, that his client has not signed an offer sheet. If he does, the Steelers can match the offer for Sanders, who is a restricted free agent, or let him go and receive a third-round choice in this year's draft in return.

Granted, the Patriots could still sign Sanders to an offer sheet, and given that their salary-cap situation is better than Pittsburgh's, the team could structure that contract in a manner that would make it virtually impossible for the Steelers to match it.

Doug Kyed of NESN likes the move for the Patriots, both because it adds talent to the New England roster while taking it away from the Steelers.

The Patriots have a golden opportunity to not only improve their dwindling wide receiver corps, but also stick it to one of their biggest rivals in the process. That’s why New England should sign Emmanuel Sanders to a restricted free agent offer sheet, even if it means giving up a third-round pick. In doing so, the Patriots would give themselves a No. 2 wide receiver, while further depleting the Steelers’ skill players.

However, with all due respect to both Kyed and Emmanuel Sanders, the price tag for the fourth-year pro's services would just be too high for the Patriots.

That's no knock on Sanders as a player. Sanders racked up 626 yards on 44 catches last year, posting a healthy 14.2 yards per reception. His 4.40 speed makes him a dangerous vertical threat.

With that said though, it's not just about the money that it would take to sign Sanders.

If the Patriots signed Sanders to an offer sheet that Pittsburgh chose not to match, it would also cost the Patriots their third-round draft pick, further depleting a stockpile that's already taken a hit.

The Patriots already traded their fourth-round pick away in the deal that got them Aqib Talib. And their  fifth-round pick (Albert Haynesworth) and sixth-round pick (Chad Ochocinco).

If the Patriots acquired Sanders, that would leave them with only four total picks, including just two before the seventh round. That would make it awfully difficult for the team to address other needs via the draft.

The biggest of those needs isn't really at wide receiver anyway, and while the wideout crop has been picked over somewhat there are still some viable options available that wouldn't also cost the team a draft pick.

Yes, the New England Patriots could use a vertical threat at wide receiver.

However, the price of inking Sanders to an offer that Pittsburgh won't match and losing a top-100 draft pick is just too great a price for a player that ranked 57th among wide receivers in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus.

And that makes the smart play to pass.