Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders has signed a three-year deal with the Denver Broncos. After losing receiver Eric Decker in free agency to the New York Jets the Broncos moved fast to find his replacement. The Broncos have been one of the most active teams in free agency, as the Super Bowl loss to the Seahawks clearly did not sit well with them.
Offense was never a weakness or concern for the Broncos last season as they set records for points scored and passing offense, and that is why until signing Sanders they had spent most of their money on defense. The defensive side of the ball needed improvement and clearly by the money the Broncos have spent so far in free agency they understood that. But while they have been spending big on the defensive side they have been thriftier on the offensive side of the ball. Even though running back Knowshon Moreno had a breakout year they decided to let him test free agency and they let highly productive receiver Eric Decker go in free agency as well. They believe Moreno’s replacement is already on their roster in Montee Ball, but they had to go out and sign Decker’s replacement.
Emmanuel Sanders had the best year of his career last season, as he became a full-time starter in the absence of receiver Mike Wallace. Sanders set new career highs in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns with 67 receptions, 740 receiving yards and 6 receiving touchdowns. He still had issues with dropped balls and inconsistency but that is something that should be fixed with experience and that is something he will get with new quarterback Peyton Manning. Sanders will most likely become the second starting receiver behind Demaryius Thomas with Wes Welker manning the slot. This was a smart long-term signing for the Broncos as Welker will become a free agent next year and if they lose him Sanders can easily be moved into the slot. Signing him for the money they did, three-year deal worth $15 million, was smart as well because it would have cost them significantly more to resign Decker.
An interesting aspect to this story is how Sanders and his agent went about signing this deal. Executives across the NFL are complaining about this signing as Sanders and his agent broke a lot of unwritten rules in the process. Prior to signing with the Broncos Sanders had agreed in principle to a deal with the Chiefs, then used that deal as leverage to try to get more money out of the Buccaneers. This was in addition to setting up a visit with the 49ers and deciding to not show up. They now have a deal and the suspicious nature of their negotiations should not matter, but it is not a good idea to burn bridges in the NFL and that is what a lot of executives feel Sanders and his agent have done.
Emmanuel Sanders signing with the Broncos will help them get over the loss of receiver Eric Decker. They have been extremely active in this free agency period as they try to improve their already highly talented roster and get back to the Super Bowl.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius
Pro Football Talk