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Jason Cole on D&C: Patriots likely have long-term deal ready for Emmanuel Sanders

04.11.13 at 9:19 am ET
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Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to discuss the Patriots’ contract offer to restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, which Cole said appears to be a case of the Patriots working the system to their benefit.

Emmanuel Sanders could soon be a Patriot. (AP)

Emmanuel Sanders could soon be a Patriot. (AP)

The Pats presented Sanders with a reported one-year, $2.5 million deal, which on the surface appears curious as they would have to surrender a third-round pick to the Steelers if Pittsburgh declines to match the offer, then Sanders would become a free agent after the season. However, Cole said it’s become clear that New England has a plan in place to keep Sanders for more than one year.

“We don’t have proof yet. But certainly in talking to three or four executives around the league yesterday and a couple of agents who kind of are aware of the process, all of them said there’s no way this is a one-year deal,” Cole said. “In other words, what the Patriots have done is they have signed him to a one-year deal to make it difficult for the Steelers to want to match this offer, and will then turn around at some later date and give Sanders a long-term deal, a four- or five-year deal. Because they don’t want to put a deal out there for the Steelers that looks attractive for the Steelers to want to match right now.

“So, this is a smart move. Is it a little bit deceitful and not within the intent of the rules? You could make that argument. But there’s no direct rule against it, there’s no prohibition against it.”

Added Cole: “There has to be a trust between the agent and the Patriots that we’re going to do business this way on this contract. You just have to trust that the agent’s going to go along with it and going to follow through on his word — which I assume he’s going to do because he’s probably going to get a long-term deal for his wide receiver.”

Now the ball is in the Steelers’ hands, as they decide whether or not to match the offer. Cole said he thinks Pittsburgh is leaning toward letting Sanders leave.

“Yeah, I think there’s a little too much doubt,” Cole said. “I talked to somebody from the Steelers yesterday, and I get the feeling that they like him as a player, and they don’t like the idea of losing two of their top three receivers — because they’ve already lost [Mike] Wallace. If they lose Sanders, all they’ve got left over is Antonio Brown.

“But I think there’s a little too much doubt about whether they can do a long-term deal. This is where it gets a little bit dicey for the Steelers. If you match the deal — OK, it’s not that excessive at $2.5 million, and you can make enough room to fit him on the roster and it’s all fine — but if you lose him after one year, you don’t get a compensatory pick for another year after that. You’ve got a for-sure third-round pick right now. And that third-round pick to them is probably worth more in the long run than Emmanuel Sanders is possibly over one year.

“Emmanuel Sanders, he’s not a star. … But he has some ability, too. The Patriots are taking a little bit of a bet on the come on this one, that he’s going to finally fulfill his talent. And the Steelers are probably tired of waiting on it.”

To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

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