In 2014, his fourth NFL season, Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders had a career year. Finally emerging from the shadows in a potent Pittsburgh passing attack, he caught 67 passes for 740 yards and six touchdowns. Even as career bests for Sanders, those numbers were hardly impressive compared to what his teammate Antonio Brown was able to accomplish last year.
They were enough, however, to make Sanders an intriguing target in the 2014 free agent market. Should the Giants be tempted to pursue the 27-year-old wide receiver?
That depends on how New York views its own receiving situation right now. Victor Cruz is coming off a disappointing season but still has the talent to be an explosive top target if quarterback Eli Manning can regain his footing as one of the NFL's top quarterbacks.
Not as certain are the statuses of Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan. In just his second season out of LSU, Randle showed the speed and explosiveness that caused the Giants to draft him in the second round of the 2012 draft. On just 41 catches, Randle gained 611 yards and scored six touchdowns. His performance trailed off towards the end of the season, but it's hard to deny the fact that Randle showed the potential to be a dangerous starting NFL receiver.
Jernigan spent the first two years of his career looking like a wasted draft pick before he finally burst onto the scene in late 2013. The 237 yards and two touchdowns he put up in the Giants' last three games gave the team hope and confidence heading into the offseason. More importantly, the performance established Jernigan as a possibility for slot wide receiver in 2014.
With more catches and experience than either Randle or Jernigan, Sanders would be an asset to New York's young wide receiver corps. The real question, though, is how much of an asset he can be? The Giants aren't a great football team right now; they have a lot of holes to fill. On a better team, signing a reliable pass catcher like Sanders to bolster an inexperienced wide receiver group would make sense. With the Giants, I think that time and money should be devoted to the offensive line, the linebackers, and the cornerbacks before the wide receiver position is even talked about.
Sanders would be a nice player to have at the right price, but right now the Giants have too many others holes to fill to worry about spending on a position where they have enough talent to create productivity. The unit isn't totally complete, but it should only need a cheap add-on or two to be very competitive.