Top free agents in the division: No. 15

Free agency officially begins March 12, so the AFC North blog is counting down the 20 best free agents (unrestricted and restricted) from the teams in the division. Let's continue with No. 15 ...


Steelers wide receiver

Status: Restricted free agent

The good: With Mike Wallace expected to leave in free agency, Sanders should take his place in the starting lineup. He's a quick and athletic receiver who caught a career-high 44 passes in 2012, doubling his production from the previous season. Sanders has shown reliable hands and good run-after-the-catch ability. He also played in all 16 games for the first time in his three-year career. There's a solid upside with Sanders, who turns 26 next month.

The bad: It always goes back to injuries, and I'm talking about the ones that he doesn't fake. Sanders missed eight games with foot and knee injuries in his first two seasons. And, even though he didn't miss a game last season, injuries still affected his season. He didn't have a full week of practice for the final three weeks of the season (shoulder and rib injuries), and he only had three catches over that span.

The bottom line: The Steelers are expected to put the original-round tender ($1.33 million) on Sanders. That means a team would have to give up a third-round pick in compensation for acquiring Sanders. The Steelers will probably attempt to sign Sanders to an extension, which will be lower than the one given to Antonio Brown ($43 million over six years).