The Pittsburgh Steelers will match the one-year, $2.5 million offer sheet that restricted free-agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders signed with the New England Patriots, Sanders' agent announced on Twitter.
"Pitt has matched the RFA offer sheet on Emmanuel Sanders. First RFA to get offer in 3 years," Jordan Woy tweeted.
Sanders, a 2010 third-round pick out of SMU, signed the offer sheet with the Patriots on April 9. The Steelers had until 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday to match the $2.5 million offer, which was worth nearly twice as much as the $1.323 million "original round" tender that Pittsburgh placed on Sanders this offseason.
Had the Steelers elected to not match, they would have received New England's third-round selection (No. 91 overall) of this month's draft. The entire value of the four-year contract that draft choice will sign is projected to be worth around $2.6 million, slightly more than what the Steelers will pay Sanders this season, though a multi-year contract could be worked out that would keep Sanders off the 2014 free-agent market.
Sanders was a part-time starter for the Steelers last season, catching a career-high 44 passes for 626 yards with one touchdown while playing in 67.67 percent of the Steelers' offensive snaps. According to Football Outsiders' advanced metrics, Sanders ranked 22nd in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average).
In 40 games over the last three seasons, Sanders has 94 receptions for 1,260 yards and five touchdowns.
The Patriots viewed the 26-year-old Sanders as the deep threat they have lacked since trading Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings during the 2010 season. New England attempted to fill that role last season with Brandon Lloyd, who caught 74 passes for 911 yards and four touchdowns, but he was released before his $3 million option bonus came due this offseason. With Sanders remaining with the Steelers, the Patriots could look for a wide receiver in the draft or possibly re-sign Lloyd, who remains on the free-agent market, at a reduced rate.