The New England Patriots are trying to completely overhaul the wide receiver position this offseason.
Wes Welker signed with the Denver Broncos and Brandon Lloyd was cut, but the Patriots countered by signing Danny Amendola in free agency. Now, the team is targeting Emmanuel Sanders of the Pittsburgh Steelers, signing him to an offer sheet, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS:
The Patriots just submitted an offer sheet on Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders. some actual restricted free agent movement. Wow— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) April 10, 2013
And PITT has until Monday to match the offer sheet or take NE's 3rd-rd pick. Again, money won't be determining factor. Money will be modest.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 10, 2013
The offer sheet that Steelers RFA Emmanuel Sanders signed is worth $2.5 million. Steelers choice: match or get NE's third-round pick by Sun.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 10, 2013
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Patriots offered a one-year deal to Sanders.
The Steelers already lost Mike Wallace in free agency, so it would be somewhat surprising if the team didn't match the offer sheet unless it feels it could draft a superior player this season and wants to stockpile picks.
Ed Werder of ESPN expects the team to match the offer:
Expect Steelers to match Patriots offer sheet and retain WR Emmanual Sanders. He's vital after loss of Mike Wallace and offer easy to match— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) April 10, 2013
Then again, with an aging defense, it wouldn't be shocking if the team decided to take the third-round selection. There is a lot of depth on the defensive side of the ball in this draft.
That would mean the Steelers go into the draft with Antonio Brown, Plaxico Burress and Jerricho Cotchery as the top options at wide receiver. Suddenly, a position of strength last year would be anything but in 2013.
Ben Roethlisberger would be rooting for the team to draft the likes of Cordarrelle Patterson, Tavon Austin or Keenan Allen in the first round, you can be sure of that.
For the Patriots, it's arguable whether the additions of Amendola and Sanders would really represent an upgrade over Welker and Lloyd. In 2012, Sanders finished with 44 receptions for 626 yards and a touchdown, though he does have the potential to do more.
And if newly signed Michael Jenkins can provide Tom Brady with the big target he needs on the outside, and Donald Jones steps in on four-receiver sets, this could be a very dangerous group of receivers.
With solid options at the position, last year's rejuvenated running game and tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady would be leading a very dangerous offense.