Source: Pats sign Sanders to offer sheet

Updated: April 10, 2013, 10:45 AM ET

The New England Patriots have signed Pittsburgh Steelers restricted free-agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet, a league source said.

The source said the offer sheet is a one-year deal. The Steelers have five days to decide whether to match the offer or let Sanders go to the Patriots and receiver a third-round draft choice from New England in return.

The money in the offer sheet won’t scare Pittsuburgh, sources said. But Sanders can leave in a year as an unrestricted free agent. Instead of risking losing him with no compensation after the 2012 season, the Steelers could opt to take New England’s third-round pick now.

The 26-year-old Sanders is a quick, athletic receiver who caught a career-high 44 passes in 2012, doubling his production from the previous season.

He only received an original-round tender from the Steelers due to the team’s salary cap restraints this offseason.

Sanders was expected to replace Mike Wallace, who signed with the Miami Dolphins this offseason, in the starting lineup opposite Antonio Brown.

The only Steelers wide receivers with any experience right now are Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, Plaxico Burress and David Gilreath.

The Patriots have a need at receiver after losing Wes Welker in free agency to the Denver Broncos and releasing Brandon Lloyd.

Information from AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley was used in this report.

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About Neil Farris

I have been covering sports since 2002 when I began writing for my college newspaper. Since then I have covered football regionally and currently work in the NFL department at All Sports Talk.