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Five thoughts on Patriots possible addition of WR Emmanuel Sanders

04.10.13 at 11:26 am ET

Five thoughts on the possible acquisition of Emmanuel Sanders:

1. Sanders would bring a variety of skills to the Patriots’ passing game, but one of the things that really sticks out when you are talking about the former SMU product is his footwork. The Patriots obviously look for fast receivers, but they also put a priority on being able to get in and out of cuts quickly and display the needed agility to thrive in the New England offense. To that point, most of the receivers they have acquired over the last decade or so all flashed great agility in skills like the 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill. To that point, as a collegian, Sanders not only displayed the requisite straight-line speed ‘€” he had a 4.4 40-yard dash ‘€” but also flashed great agility, posting a 6.6 time in the 3-cone drill, the second-best time that year among the receivers. (By way of comparison, that would have placed him third overall at this year’€™s combine.) There was also his 4.1 in the 20-yard shuttle (third-best among wide receivers), another drill that measures footwork and agility. (For more on Sanders and his agility, click my story here.)

2. There are short-term and long-term, considerations in play here. One, the one-year deal — which is for $2.5 million, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN — is a short-term way to pry Sanders from a conference competitor that has cap issues. (The Steelers depth chart at receiver would include a top three of Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress. Yikes.) Two, with Sanders in the fold — and if he shows any sort of proficiency in the Patriots’ passing game — it’s likely New England would try and work on a longer-term deal with him sometime over the course of the 2013 season.

3. If the Patriots do land Sanders (and, perhaps, bring back either Brandon Lloyd or Julian Edelman), this could change some of the conventional wisdom regarding New England possibly going after a wide receiver in this month’s draft — they would effectively be spending a third-round pick on Sanders. Considering the Patriots’ recent run when it comes to drafting and developing wide receivers, history tells us this is the smart play. In the last 10 years — starting with the 2003 draft — the Patriots have selected eight receivers that have a combined 165 career receptions in the NFL, with 69 of them coming from Edelman, a converted college quarterback. Bethel Johnson with 39 career receptions and Brandon Tate with 37 career catches are the only others who have topped 30. Meanwhile, Wes Welker had 118 of his own last season.

4. The combination of Sanders and Danny Amendola would give the Patriots two receivers who have played both in the slot and on the outside, and could give New England some versatility when it comes to deploying what would likely be its two top receivers in the passing game. You would then possibly have Donald Jones, Michael Jenkins and (perhaps) Edelman or Lloyd filling out the depth chart at wide receiver, as well as a handful of younger possibilities like Kamar Aiken, Jeremy Ebert and Andre Holmes.

5. The whole situation involving Sanders and the Patriots is vaguely reminiscent of the scenario that played out in the spring of 2007 when New England landed Welker. In that case, the Patriots were initially planning on signing Welker — who was a restricted free agent — to an offer sheet worth (you guessed it) $1.3 million, the same price as the Sanders offer. However, both teams decided to avoid the usual red-tape that goes along with the RFA process and work out a trade instead — the Patriots sent a second- and seventh-round pick to Miami in exchange for Welker. The receiver got a five-year, $18.1 million deal and the Patriots got Welker, who would then proceed to run off one of the greatest six-year stretches for any receiver in the history of the game.

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