For the second consecutive year, Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders signed a contract with another team only this time he'll actually play for them.
A year ago, the New England Patriots signed Sanders to a one-year contract as a restricted free agent. The Steelers had the right to match it and they did, paying him a salary of $2.5 million.
The team never tried to sign him to a long-term contract and he visited a handful of teams the past week as an unrestricted free agent before landing in Denver, where he will go from catching Ben Roethlisberger's passes to those from Peyton Manning.
"To play with Peyton Manning is like wide receiver heaven," Sanders said Sunday at a news conference in Denver. "I feel like he's one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game. ... I know that he's going to make me a better player whether it's mentally and physically. I know that I'm in a great environment."
The Steelers could have received a 2013 third-round draft pick from New England had they not matched the Patriots' offer to Sanders last year. However, they should get a 2015 compensatory pick for him leaving, perhaps as high as a third-rounder.
They drafted Sanders in the third round from Southern Methodist in 2010. In four seasons, he started 18 games, played in 56 and had 161 receptions for 2,030 yards and 11 touchdowns. He caught 67 last season for 740 yards, both second on the team, and six touchdowns.
Sanders' departure was expected. The Steelers would like to re-sign another of their free agent wide receivers, Jerricho Cotchery.
The Steelers have $3,469,434 salary cap space, according to the NFL Players Association.
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published March 16, 2014 2:57 PM