Steelers RFA WR Emmanuel Sanders visiting Patriots today. Pats could sign him to offer sheet that cap-strapped Steelers struggle to match.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 15, 2013
Sanders, 25, is coming off of his most productive season at the professional level with 44 catches for 626 yards and one touchdown after being selected in the third round out of Southern Methodist University during the 2010 NFL Draft. Sanders boasts some elite quickness and led the Steelers' wide receiving corps in average yards with 14.2--a standout feat for a group that also featured Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace.
Under the umbrella of restricted free agency, the Patriots would have to surrender their third-round draft selection to the Steelers if they chose to sign Sanders, who was given an original-round tender. The Steelers could match any offer the Patriots give Sanders, however, preventing the draft pick from exchanging hands and keeping Sanders' services in Pittsburgh. The Patriots could render it extremely difficult for the Steelers if they were sold on Sanders, hypothetically frontloading a contract that would be difficult for Pittsburgh to match with New England's ample salary cap flexibility.