Addition of WR Sanders May Prevent New England From Targeting Another Wide Receiver in 2013

Emmanuel Sanders could very well be New England’s last major investment in a wide receiver this offseason. (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones

Assuming that the Pittsburgh Steelers opt not to match the one-year, $2.5 million offer sheet the New England Patriots signed restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to earlier this week, it’s possible that, by signing Sanders along with free agent wide receivers Julian Edelman, Michael Jenkins, and Donald Jones, the Patriots feel that they have sufficiently addressed the position in free agency, which could have significant repercussions for New England in the 2013 NFL Draft. Today, we’ll discuss whether or not wide receiver is still a draft priority for the organization.

New England currently has eight wide receivers under contract through at least 2013: Kamar Aiken, Danny Amendola, Jeremy Ebert, Julian Edelman, Andre Holmes, Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones, and Matthew Slater. Signing Emmanuel Sanders would increase that figure to nine. At least three of those players (four with the addition of Sanders and his $2.5 million offer sheet) are owed contracts paying them over one million dollars in 2013. Amendola carries a cap figure of just over $3.5 million this season, while Slater is priced at almost $2.3 million, Jones is set to earn $1.19 million. The terms of Julian Edelman’s recent one-year agreement have yet to be announced, but it would come as no surprise if his contract paid him over $1 million in 2013 as well.

All of the above contracts include guaranteed money, meaning that the three players are all likely to make New England’s roster next season, while Julian Edelman’s one-year deal, the terms of which have not been announced yet, could very well include a cap figure over $1 million as well. Should Sanders sign, that would mean that the Patriots have at least five options at wide receiver who are projected to make the organization’s final 53-man roster (Sanders, Amendola, Edelman, Jones, and Slater.) Keep in mind that New England’s final 53-man roster last season following preseason’s conclusion included just four wide receivers: Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Edelman, and Slater; therefore, a decision to enter next season with as few as five receivers has some precedent within the organization.

If the Patriots are considering carrying a sixth receiver on roster, they could potentially opt to carry one of the other players currently signed in that capacity, perhaps Michael Jenkins. While Jenkins did not receive any guaranteed money on his one-year, $570,000 contract aside from a $15,000 workout bonus, he does have extensive NFL experience. In 2012, he caught 40 passes for 449 yards and two touchdowns over sixteen games with the Minnesota Vikings, including eight starts. Standing 6’4”, he would offer New England a taller option at receiver.

By offering Pittsburgh their third-round pick as compensation should the Steelers decline to match New England’s offer for Emmanuel Sanders, the Patriots will place themselves in a difficult position in this April’s draft, with just four picks remaining: their first-round choice (#29 overall), their second-round choice (#59 overall), and two seventh-round picks. Although New England has done an admirable job of limiting their draft needs by signing free agents such as Amendola, Edelman, Sebastian Vollmer, Armond Armstead, Tommy Kelly, Kyle Arrington, Aqib Talib, and Tavon Wilson, they may still find themselves unwilling to draft another wide receiver. Other possible directions in the first and second rounds include offensive guard, defensive end, and cornerback.

It would be wise of New England to take advantage of the top-end talent and considerable depth in this year’s wide receiver class, but with four highly-regarded weapons on offense already in Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Stevan Ridley, the Patriots can only integrate one other player into their offense without sidelining one of the aforementioned names. New England’s willingness to invest in Sanders, not only financially but also in terms of draft capital, seems to suggest that the Patriots view him as that fifth option.

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21 Responses to “Addition of WR Sanders May Prevent New England From Targeting Another Wide Receiver in 2013”

  1. MaineMan says:

    2013 WR Cap hits are as follows:

    Amendola – $3.54M ($10M guaranteed)
    Jones —— $1.17M (nothing guaranteed)
    Edelman — $0.77M (nothing guaranteed)
    Jenkins —– $0.57M ($15k guaranteed)
    Holmes —– $0.55M (nothing guaranteed)
    Aiken ——– $0.48M (nothing guaranteed)
    Ebert ——– $0.41M (nothing guaranteed)

    Sanders —– $2.50M (nothing guaranteed)

    So, really, the Pats only have the $10 mil invested in Amendola and the 3rd rounder (potentially) invested in Sanders to concerns them as “sunk costs”.

    The Pats have gone after Sanders, IMHO, because the Pats feel he’s more likely to contribute something immediately than any of the draft prospects they’ve scouted (and they DID scout Sanders heavily prior to the 2010 draft and had to settle for Price after PIT reached for Sanders at #82). Edelman was likely brought back for the same reason. Also, Sanders, Edelman AND Jenkins are all very good blockers – an important talent for an offense that is exceptionally dependent on YAC and makes such extensive use of WR screens.

    Essentially, then, Holmes, Aiken, Ebert and even Jones are camp competition for any WR they might draft or pick up as a UDFA. None of them, or what they’re ostensibly being paid, preclude BB from taking a flyer in the 1st or 2nd on a WR for future development. None of this means that he WILL do so, just that the option isn’t significantly less likely than it was before.

  2. MaineMan says:

    I really wish folks would just stop including Slater in discussions of the Pats’ WR roster. He really, really is NOT a WR. He was a special teams ace and reserve DB for his entire UCLA career and I don’t think he ever lined up at WR for the Bruins. In the five seasons he’s been with the Pats, I’d guess he hasn’t lined up at WR more than 50 times, maybe been targeted a half dozen times (if that) and he’s made ONE catch. Hernandez probably lines up at WR more than 50 times in just a couple games.

    Slater is the Special Teams Captain, period. The only reasons he’s officially designated as a WR is so that he has a number that can legally be used on both offense and defense if necessary.

  3. DaveM says:

    If Sanders is picked up I doubt they will take a WR in the early rounds. They have been working out a lot of 7th round and UDFA’s like Marquess Wilson, Courtney Gardner, Tyrone Goard, and TJ Moe.

  4. Jim R says:

    WR position much like running back position, Talent can be had thru UFA’s

  5. acm says:

    I agree with Russell that if BB gets Sanders, he probably won’t target another WR until the late rounds.

    I do think they go DL with the first or trade down but, for some reason I keep thinking there is the outside chance BB pulls the trigger on Eifert at 29 if he is still there – he may be listed as a TE but is athletic and fast and quick enough to be a big-bodied WR (not unlike Jimmy Graham).
    Why? Well, with one pick he solves the need for a big target that can give you the deep threat Gronk cannot and he makes the team less dependent on Gronk – I doubt Gronk’s inability to finish a season and how much that has cost the Pats has gone unnoticed by BB.
    At the same time, while there are other talented TEs in this class who’d be available in the 2nd round, none of them is as athletic as Eifert, not even Ertz.

    If there is one pick I can think BB could make and wow people, this would be the one – Eifert at 29.

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      I like DT the issue is who will be on the board. I hoped jesse williams but it seems more likely he will be gone. I also like Brandon Williams at DT however he will be gone by #59, do I pick him 1st? Also I think it is very likely BB trades back into the second round to get extra picks.
      So I projecting BB takes DT Jared Smith 3d or 4th depending on his trade pick-up of picks. Smith is the same size as Sharrif Floyd and his numbers beat Floyd in all but the 40, where they are close. Smith’s level of compition is not the same at a small school like New Hampshire, but his work ethic, and intelligence place him as a very big sleeper. He’s not a starter, but a player how will deliver/learning for the future.

      • AM says:

        I love Smith, but he is a 6th or 7th rounder at best. He’s be a terrific pick in the 200s, but not much before.

  6. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    If Sanders is a Patriot, as it looks like he maybe, BB may still draft a WR, but not until the 7th, UNLESS he gets more picks in a trade.
    The idea of Mallett being traded is a possiblity, I doubt BB will carry TWO QB’s on his Roster into the Season. With Kafka and Mallett getting playing time in the Preseason, and If Mallett has a poor showing, then we have lost any value. I think if BB feels Mallett is not the future for the Patriots, he will make a move before the draft. Kafka will then get all the reps. in preseason, and we will see what he can do.
    For me Tampa is one landing stop for Mallett. Freeman is there this year, after that? Mallett is under contract until the end of 2014, so the cost of him on the Roster is small. We could get a 3d pick, to replace what we lost in the Sanders deal.

  7. bob says:

    Defense wins championships, not Air Croyall football. I hope they keep the two top pics and take the best players on D. The Pats offensive side is loaded and the system is mature with a strong coordinator. Focus the draft and UFA resources on D. BB built his career and Super Bowls on great D, just keep the focus. This Defense is close to really coming together in many ways. And Wilfork is a gifted leader.

    • td says:

      That would have actually been the big Tuna that built those defenses along with the #8, #2 & #3 picks in the entire draft within 4 years. That included Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks.

      Think Pat’s fans would be elated with the team record that would get us in position to draft in the top 5 year after year?

      How do teams get bona fide NFL studs such as Revis, Von Miller, Aldon Smith, etc? For a few years they really, really S*U*C*K.

  8. munchkin says:

    Let’s take a look at the last couple of draft picks for the Pats in the third round. Taylor Price and Brandon Tate. Price was a small school player with potential and Tate was coming off injury; both players were gambles without much pro production. Since Johnson and Jackson they don’t seem to have taken a “serious” stab at College receivers opting to go the Ocho, Moss, Welker, Galloway and now Sanders route. Broyles, Randle, Sanu and TY Hilton all came off the board after Tavon Wilson last year (amongst others). I am not questioning the Wilson pick per se, but it says something that they would gamble on an unproven Safety over some established college WR prospects.

  9. AM says:

    The other factor to consider here is that Edelman, and potentially Sanders, is still only here on a one-year deal. (The same can be said of Jenkins, although I think he is a longshot to make the team.) This WR class has unprecedented depth; if the Patriots don’t take advantage of it, they will be right back in this same position next year.

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      If the Patriots get Sanders, they will extend his contract to 3yrs 7 mil + to protect from looseing him after one year. Under NFL rules they can extend it after the Steelers give him-up, as long as its not a cheaper deal, then the signed sheet for the first yr.
      If drafts a guy, it could be WR Mark Harrison in the 7th, 6’3″ 231, 4.46 -40 Or ???

      • AM says:

        They can do that, but only if he agrees. With a good showing under his belt this year, he might choose to test the free agent waters as a UFA next year, even with a relatively flat cap. I’d rather try to develop a long-term asset (or, ideally, both).

        I like Harrison a lot in the 7th–low risk, high reward prospect. I’d like to see what he could do with a real QB throwing to him.

  10. Jon says:

    I feel so divided over this. The rookie receiver class is so intriguing this year, but at the same time NE’s recent track record of picks at that position has been pretty abysmal.

    I don’t think its unfeasible for them to select a rookie. Some of the new players brought in may not properly digest the offense and could be on the outside looking in. Other than Edelman (and I guess occasionally Slater, but does that count?) none of these guys have caught a pass from Brady.

    As an aside, I don’t think you can have too many weapons.

    • AM says:

      Agreed on all points. I think the fact that their track record has been poor is all the more reason to draft a WR (or two) this year–this draft is loaded with WR talent, so they are more likely to hit here than in a lower-quality draft.

      Personally, if they came away from this draft with two WRs and one CB, I would be perfectly content with the team’s personnel. A situational pass rusher would also be nice, but there may still be room for that with Abraham, Freeney, or Idonije.

      • MatthewJones says:

        AM, your first point echoes my own sentiments. Past draft failures should not prevent New England (or any other team) from targeting a position with a high draft pick ever again; if anything, selecting a quality player at the position becomes even more important because it has not been sufficiently addressed. Case in point: the Detroit Lions drafted Charles Rogers, Roy Williams, and Mike Williams at wide receiver before ending up with Calvin Johnson, who has become the cornerstone of their entire organization. What would have happened had the Lions decided “hey, we’re not hitting on these wide receiver selections, so let’s draft Gaines Adams instead”? They could still be languishing towards the bottom of the league.

      • acm says:

        I think this speculation of the Pats not being willing to draft a WR or CB highly due to bad past record is little more than a baseless speculation popular among the fans. I honestly doubt BB or his coaching staff or anyone else with a say in the draft, have such sentiments.
        Whther they go WR in 1st or 2nd or not and whether they go for 2-3 WRs or just one would come down to team priorities, as seen by the coach, and value available at diff positions of need. None of this irrelevant talk of sub-par past records, which s such a favorite among fans and journalists alike, would matter to the people making the decisions.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        i totally agree, this draft has great receiver depth at least thru the 5th round

  11. Prime says:

    We need Justin Hunter

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