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Agent says Emmanuel Sanders could play out year, sign elsewhere in '14

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Emmanuel Sanders returns to Pittsburgh for at least one more season. (USATSI)
A day after the Steelers matched the Patriots' $2.5 million, one-year offer sheet for Emmanuel Sanders, the agent for the wide receiver made it sound like his client could be looking for a new home next spring.

Jordan Woy, who represents Sanders, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette that "we are open to discussing" a multi-year contract, but added that "we are also open to him playing the year out. It would have to be a very good deal for us to sign a multi-year agreement."

There are two schools of thought about whether the Steelers should have matched the Pats' offer sheet. On one hand, if Pittsburgh lets Sanders walk, it would receive New England's third-round pick (91st overall) as compensation. For a team with plenty of needs, that seems like a swap worth making.

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Yes, we realize that one of the Steelers' needs includes a wide receiver. But as Bouchette wrote over the weekend, if Sanders played elsewhere, would Pittsburgh part with a third-rounder for his services? Almost certainly not. That, coupled with a draft class that is deep in receivers makes the decision to let Sanders go an easy one, especially when you consider the very real possibility that Sanders will split after the season anyway.

On the other hand, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger reportedly made a plea to the organization's higher-ups to keep Sanders. That's worth something, especially when the team's best deep threat, Mike Wallace, sprinted to Miami this offseason (aided by that five-year, $60 million contract). Now the Steelers head into the draft with a respectable group of pass catchers -- Sanders, Antonio Brown and veteran Jerricho Cotchery. (Plaxico Burress is currently the No. 4, but there's no guarantee he makes the final 53.) And even if Sanders is effectively playing on a one-year deal, $2.5 million is a bargain for a slot receiver.

The Steelers no doubt understand that risk.

"We had several teams make offers in free agency, so we know there are teams that really like Emmanuel," Woy said.

Unlike Wallace, Sanders, who had 44 catches for 626 yards and one touchdown last season, won't be entertaining any $12 million-a-year offers. He's a solid No. 2 or No. 3 receiver with run-after-the-catch ability. But the NFL is also a passing league, which means there's a premium for receivers. Put differently: The Steelers, who are up against the salary cap, could face similar issues a year from now and be priced out of the market for Sanders.

For now, that's a problem for another time. And who knows, maybe there's a method to Pittsburgh's madness that includes Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson.

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