Following up with some thoughts on Emmanuel Sanders' visit to the Patriots today, which was reported earlier by ESPN's NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Sanders is a former third-round pick with three years of NFL experience, and recently received an original round tender by the Steelers, meaning the Patriots would have to ship a third-round draft choice in 2013 to Pittsburgh if they signed Sanders to a deal that Pittsburgh did not match.
One of the reasons that Pittsburgh had to give Sanders a low tender (in comparison to a first- or second-round tender) is because of a tight salary-cap situation, as the higher tenders include a richer salary for the player.
I can recall scouting Sanders leading up to the 2010 draft while working for the Chiefs, and my impressions of him as a player were that he was an excellent change-of-direction athlete who was a productive slot player for a high-octane offense at SMU.
Shortly after news broke that the Patriots were hosting Sanders on a visit, I heard from my former boss at the Chiefs, Scott Pioli, who now is doing work with Sirius XM NFL radio as well as NFL Network.
Pioli opined that landing Sanders in a fair-market-value deal would be a coup for the Patriots, as he views him as an underrated talent on the free agent market and superior to any receiver the Patriots could acquire in the third round of this year's draft.
Asked whether Sanders is exclusively a slot receiver, Pioli said he has the skills to play both inside and outside, something the Patriots could use as they rebuild their receiving core.
The wide-receiver market has been up and down in free agency, with Mike Wallace landing a deal that far exceeds any other signed as of this juncture. That stands in contrast to the market that was set for Wes Welker, who ultimately took a two-year, $12 million deal with the Broncos.
So what would it take to sign Sanders away from Pittsburgh? It's tough to say, but given the Steelers' cap constraints, it's possible that the Patriots could construct the deal in such a way that Pittsburgh would struggle to match it. The team is down to just five draft choices this year, so it may also ultimately decide to hold off from offering Sanders to preserve the pick.
We'll continue to monitor this situation as it develops.