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Broncos free agency target: Miles Sanders

The Denver Broncos need to upgrade their running back stable. Miles Sanders would be a great fit for Sean Payton’s offense.

NFL: NFC Championship-San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos enter this year’s free agency period with a handful of pressing needs to address. Running back is certainly among them.

Only Javonte Williams, Tyler Badie, Damarea Crockett, and Chase Edmonds are slated as current options on the roster. The Broncos have several in-house free agents such as Latavius Murray, Mike Boone, and Marlon Mack to consider bringing back. Given Murray’s knowledge and experience with Payton’s offense—if anyone was brought back—he appears to be the most likely option.

Conventional wisdom and history shows running backs fail to live up to expectations on their second contract, but given the aforementioned, it’s logical that George Paton and Sean Payton will pursue a running back in free agency.

It’s a position where production matters. Payton runs an offense where having multiple, well-rounded backs is absolutely essential. Not only that, a much improved backfield would help lift some weight of Russell Wilson’s shoulders and give him a better chance at succeeding in 2023.

One running back I think that would be a significant addition to the Broncos would be Miles Sanders of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Highlighting Sanders’ career to date

The Eagles selected Sanders in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He has played an important role in their rushing success since and has been a very productive player despite having to share snaps in a crowded backfield.

To date, Sanders has played in 57 games with 49 career starts. In those games, he has accrued 3,708 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns whilst sporting a 5.0 yard per carry average. Additionally, he has shown good receiving ability, hauling in 124 receptions for 942 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Sanders embarked on a career campaign this past season amassing 1269 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on a career-high 259 carries. Those numbers earned him Pro-Bowl honors and helped propel the Eagles to the Super Bowl. Sanders is the type of running back every team would love to have and the Broncos would be smart to pursue him in free agency.

Why he makes sense for the Broncos

Sanders’ creativity as a runner and receiving prowess out of the backfield make him a formidable fit for Denver’s offense. He is a patient runner with good vision, but also boasts top-notch lateral agility and quickness which make him a terror in the open field. He has a proven track record of success and would immediately revitalize a Broncos’ running backs corps that has been decimated by injury.

In his rookie season, he had an impressive 50 catches for 509 yards and three touchdowns. Though his target share in the receiving game dropped consistently as a rookie, that is more due to utilization in the Eagles’ offense as opposed to lacking ability. Having a back who can create mismatches in the receiving game out of the backfield is a focal point of Payton’s offense.

In my opinion, Sanders’ big play ability make him one of the NFL’s most underrated backs. I feel his well-rounded skillset would make him a valuable piece for the Broncos. Under the tutelage of Payton, I think Sanders could ascend to even greater heights and would give Denver a legitimate starter who can make an impact while Williams recovers to full health.

Examining Sanders’ free agent market

There are a plethora of running backs on the open market, but Sanders is among the best. I expect him to have a big market and no shortage of suitors.

According to Spotrac, Sanders is expected to earn roughly $7M a season with a multi-year deal on the open market. That average annual value would make him one of the top 10 highest paid running backs in the league.

The Broncos can certainly afford to make that investment, but whether or not they choose to spend large on a high-profile running back remains to be seen.

If I were Paton and Payton, I’d definitely look into bringing a back like Sanders into the fold. What do they have to lose?