For a moment, let us set aside how it ended between the Patriots and Wes Welker and consider how it all began.
Six years ago, Welker was a restricted free agent, and the Dolphins tendered him at the second-round level. The Patriots shrugged and worked out a deal with Miami, sending second- and seventh-round picks to the Dolphins to get their man.
So yes, the Patriots have had success in restricted agency.
Now, they could be doing a little due diligence on another RFA wide receiver.
The Steelers tendered the 26-year-old Sanders at the original-round level, meaning an interested team would have to surrender a third-round pick were Pittsburgh to decline to match an offer sheet. Sanders is one of five restricted free agents on PFT’s Free Agency Hot 100.
In three seasons, Sanders has caught 94 passes for 1,230 yards and seven TDs, gaining 13.7 yards per catch. In Pittsburgh, he would likely start opposite of Antonio Brown after the departure of Mike Wallace.
Sanders’ athleticism and quickness are major assets. He had some foot issues earlier in his career, but he played in all 16 games a season ago.
Moreover, his value to the Steelers is at its greatest, considering Wallace has moved on.
This is a situation to watch.