The ultimate leverage junkie and the boss of intrigue just added a whole bunch of both to the 2013 offseason.
Many questions surround the offer sheet that Pittsburgh restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders signed on Wednesday, an offer made by the New England Patriots that would pay the 26 year old Wide Receiver $2.5 million for one year – and one that Pittsburgh could easily match.
If they wanted to, that is.
There is growing speculation that the Steelers will walk away from Sanders, the Patriots 2013 third round draft pick in hand and newly found cap relief in their pockets.
It seems very unlikely that Belichick would have offered Sanders a contract that the Steelers could easily match just to do it. Such things are not covered under the auspices of “Due Diligence”, and just the fact that this is the first time that a restricted free agent has ever – in the history of the NFL – signed an offer sheet covering just one year has many raising their eyebrows…
…and of course it wouldn’t be the first time that the thought of Belichick playing dirty has crossed the frontal lobes of football minds, as he routinely crosses that imaginary line in the sand known as “unwritten rules” if it gains an advantage for his team – and Sanders would be a huge advantage for the Patriots.
If Belichick were to play by these unwritten rules, he would have offered Sanders the long-term contact that he most certainly has waiting for the fourth year speedster, but offered the one year deal instead, not allowing Pittsburgh the wiggle room that a longer-term deal would have made more affordable to their bottom line.
But, as Belichick has proven time and again, he doesn’t recognize unwritten rules, and the Steelers wouldn’t be the first team to discover that.
Also in play is the fact that Pittsburgh’s braintrust has no confidence that they can sign Sanders to a long-term deal and could be viewing the cap space savings and draft pick as manna from heaven – as they should – particularly given the cap jail that the deal releases the Steelers from. It will certainly help their bottom line long-term, but will essentially leave them in full blown rebuilding mode in the interim.
But the bottom line is that the Steelers have killed their bottom line by restructuring and backloading contracts, and have reached the point where their check has been cashed, and what Belichick is doing is taking advantage of Pittsburgh’s past fiscal irresponsibility and offering them the means to get back on track…
…with an offer that they can’t refuse – that is, if they want to be solvent again. It’s unlikely that benevolence is what Belchick has in mind, but it’s the best offer the Steelers are going to get.
It goes without saying that the Steelers and their fans will resent the hell out of Belichick and the Patriots – as if they didn’t already – for painting them into a corner and forcing them to deal with him, which is completely understandable, but in the long-term it is the most responsible thing for both teams to do.
And, ultimately, the Patriots will ink Sanders to that friendly long-term deal that will make his cap hit very affordable as the new TV revenue package kicks in and the salary cap goes up incrementally starting in 2014…which is why the Patriots will be top contenders for a title, and why they have been for many years now…
…and why all of this is good news for Pittsburgh’s fortunes as well.
So, both sides would benefit from the Steelers walking away. The only question is, will they?