It has been rumored over the past few days that the Broncos were looking to add another veteran wide receiver, and Adam Schefter of ESPN is now reporting that the team has reached a deal with fourth-year Pittsburgh Steelers free agent receiver, Emmanuel Sanders.
Neither team nor player's agent will confirm, but Broncos are expected to sign former Steelers WR Emmauel Sanders, per league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2014
ESPN's Cecil Lammey confirmed the signing just an hour later:
In 2013, his fourth season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sanders made 67 receptions for 735 yards and 6 touchdowns, all career-highs for the receiver out of SMU. Throughout his four NFL seasons, since being drafted in the third round (82nd overall) of the 2010 draft, Sanders has amassed 161 receptions for 2030 yards and 11 touchdowns over 56 regular season games.
The Broncos’ signing of Sanders gives Peyton Manning yet another solid, dependable target in the passing game. Sanders rarely drops passes, posting a 6.94 drop rate in 2013 (18th in the league), which was better than any Broncos receiver. Decker held the Broncos lowest drop rate, with a score of 8.42.
Sanders is also a threat in the deep passing game; in 2013 the veteran receiver made six catches on seven catchable passes that were thrown 20+ yards, including one touchdown catch.
When the deal was first reported, MHR commenters were wondering about whether Sanders played in the slot or on the outside. There is no telling how the Broncos will use him in Denver this season, but in 2013 he only ran 77 (14.3%) out of his total 537 routes in the slot position. That’s not to say that Sanders can’t play in the slot though; on those 77 routes run in the slot, the Pittsburgh receiver made 12 receptions on 17 targets, for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns. The five targets that were not completed were not due to Sanders; he had a 0.0% drop rate in the slot.
Of players who amassed at least 50% of their teams’ targets, Sanders (1.34) was ranked 40th in the league in yards per route run, coming in just behind Roddy White (1.36), and just ahead of DeAndre Hopkins (1.28). In comparison to 2013 Broncos, Eric Decker was tied for 16th in the league with 2.03 yards per route run, while Demaryius Thomas averaged 2.17 yards per route run, good enough for 11th in the NFL.
In addition to another solid receiver, Sanders could potentially fill the Broncos’ need for a kick and punt returner, with Trindon Holliday gone. The Broncos newest signing has returned 41 kickoffs and 16 punts in his four-year career, racking up 1191 yards combined.
Previously, it had been reported by ESPN.com that teams were wary of signing Sanders to a long-term deal, considering his history with foot injuries. Despite these rumors and the fact that Sanders has screws in each of his feet, many teams had shown interest in signing him to a new deal, including the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
It was believed that Sanders was seeking a similar deal to what Golden Tate received in Detroit, which was worth $31.5 million ($13.25M guaranteed) over five years. No details on the contract between Sanders and the Broncos have yet to be released; more details coming soon.
So on it goes. Denver adds WR Emmanuel Sanders, New England adds WR Brandon LaFell.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2014
Update (9:30 a.m. MT) There was confusion and mixed reports last night, which included reports that Sanders' agent had verbally agreed to a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs prior to making a deal with the Broncos. The agent was said to have verbally agreed to a deal with the Chiefs, which he then used to bargain with other teams. Broncos management has said that they were unaware of the agreement with the Chiefs when they first talked to Sanders. Sanders flew to Denver this morning, and will undergo a physical exam. If the wideout passes the physical, he will sign with the Broncos, making last night's reported deal official. Mike Klis of the Denver Post reported this morning that the deal between Sanders and the Broncos is expected to be three years in length, with monetary terms not yet released.
Update (11:15 a.m. MT) The Denver Broncos announced on Twitter that the team has officially signed Emmanuel Sanders, pending a physical. The deal is a three-year deal, as reported earlier by Mike Klis of the Denver Post. ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that the deal is worth $15 million ($6M guaranteed), with a total of $18M possible with incentives. Sanders will meet the Denver media at 1:30 p.m. MT; the press conference will be live on BroncosTV.
Update (12:50 p.m. MT) ESPN's Josina Anderson is reporting that the terms of Emmanuel Sanders deal with the Broncos are 3 years, worth $18 million ($6 million guaranteed); Anderson received the details in a text from Sanders. The official Denver Broncos Twitter account tweeted out a picture of Sanders signing his contract; go congratulate @E_Sanders88 on his new deal, and welcome him to Broncos Country.