But Pittsburgh gave Sanders, a restricted free agent, an original-round tender, meaning any other team could make him an offer the Steelers wouldn't -- or couldn't -- match and all the Steelers would get in return would be a third-round pick.
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Now, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora has confirmed Sanders is on a free-agent visit to the Patriots (ESPN's Adam Schefter originally reported the news), meaning there's a real chance the Steelers will have to fight off New England for Sanders' services.
Restricted free agents don't usually get the opportunity to switch teams. Much of the time, it's too easy for the original squad to match the offer. But the Steelers are having difficulty with the salary cap.
According to spotrac.com, the Steelers are about $14 million under the 2013 cap, and Sanders only counts $1.323 million against the cap. If they have to give Sanders a substantial bump, the Steelers might find it impossible to keep him away from the Patriots -- who are about $25 million under the cap.
The Steelers' receiving corps could look like this in 2013: Antonio Brown, Plaxico Burress, Jerricho Cotchery and … ??? In other words, if Sanders leaves, Pittsburgh might be in some trouble.
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