Emmanuel Sanders

Emmanuel Sanders Also Underwent Offseason Ankle Surgery

It turns out Emmanuel Sanders needed two surgeries this offseason. The veteran Broncos wideout is nearly ready to play again after his Achilles operation, and on Monday he revealed to 9News’ Miks Klis he underwent a procedure to repair his other ankle.

Sanders underwent surgeries to repair his left Achilles’ tendon and right ankle, the latter procedure to fix a troublesome injury that occurred in October 2017. Sanders missed four games that season with a high ankle sprain but did not opt for a 2018 surgery. While he was on pace for another 1,000-yard season before his December 2018 Achilles injury, the 32-year-old pass catcher said he played through ankle pain throughout. Sanders had surgery this year while he was going through Achilles rehab, undergoing Achilles surgery in December and the ankle procedure a month later, Klis notes.

My (right) ankle gave me problems all last year,’’ Sanders said. “I came to camp last year thinking, “How the hell am I going to get through this season?’ I feel like that was kind of the reason I tore my Achilles.”

Sanders is expected to return to game action in the Broncos’ third preseason contest, which is set for August 19 against the 49ers. He participated in 11-on-11 drills Monday.

The Broncos are counting on the 10th-year receiver to again be a key playmaker for at least one more season. They did not make any major investments at this position this year, adding only sixth-round pick Juwann Winfree to a group that includes Sanders and three second-year players. Sanders has been a Broncos starter for five seasons and is entering the final year of his contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: QBs, Cap, Sanders, Nkemdiche

The latest installment of Mike Sando’s annual quarterback tiers emerged recently, via The Athletic (subscription required). While Russell Wilson ascended into Tier 1 for the first time, evaluators are much less bullish on two of his top dual-threat brethren. Both Cam Newton and Dak Prescott come in on Tier 3, with the shoulder injuries the Panthers passer has suffered in recent years dropping him off his previous Tier 2 placement. The anonymous voter panel, comprised of executives and coaches, placed Newton as the league’s No. 15 quarterback and the Cowboys‘ fourth-year pilot at No. 17. In a separate piece, Sando notes no Tier 3 quarterback who has been paid as a top-10 passer, which seems likely for Prescott by Week 1, has taken his team to the playoffs that season. Newton has two years remaining on his Panthers-friendly deal. Tier 2 quarterbacks, per past Sando surveys, were 8-for-29 in guiding teams to the playoffs with top-10 APY figures since 2014.

Here is the latest from around the league:

  • One of the topics brought up in this year’s CBA talks: the spending floor. Currently, teams are required to spend 89% of their cap over a four-year period. The NFLPA has proposed forcing teams to spend more, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com notes. One of the proposals floated would increase that 89% threshold to 95%; another would involve reducing the number of years factored into these spending equations from four to two. There is no policy in place mandating teams spend a certain amount each year, only through four-year windows.
  • One issue that will likely change in the new CBA, per Graziano: the league’s marijuana policy. The NFL has already softened its stance on marijuana, through a 2014 change, and has now formed a committee to study alternative pain-management techniques. This points to more leniency on the weed front.
  • No team was willing to take on Robert Nkemdiche‘s first-round contract the Cardinals just shed. The 2016 first-round pick cleared waivers Monday and is now in free agency. The former No. 1 overall recruit reported to Cardinals camp in less-than-ideal shape and is coming off a season marred by a torn ACL. It may be a long road back for the 24-year-old defensive lineman, who did register 4.5 sacks (the first QB drops of his career) last season.
  • Emmanuel Sanders returned to 11-on-11 work at Broncos camp Monday, per Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (on Twitter). This marked the first such participation for the 32-year-old wide receiver since before his Achilles tear last December. The Broncos did not stick Sanders on their active/PUP list to start training camp, and with more than five weeks remaining before Week 1, it appears a good bet the 10th-year wideout, barring a setback, will be ready to start the season on time.

Extra Points: Broncos, Ravens, Hawks, Bears

Emmanuel Sanders avoided the physically unable to perform list and participated in individual work during Broncos practice on Wednesday, and the veteran wideout is likely to be a “full go” within two-to-three weeks, tweets James Palmer of NFL.com. Now 32 years old, Sanders tore his Achilles in a December practice and missed the remainder of the season. Recent reports have indicated he may not be ready for Week 1, but if he’s ready for full practice sessions by mid-August, his availability for the start of the regular season wouldn’t seem to be in question. Sanders will be the most experienced member of a Denver pass-catching unit that also includes Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown was among the Ravens placed on the active/non-football-injury list on Thursday, the club announced. Brown actually did suffer his Lisfranc injury playing football, but he’s been placed on NFI because the injury occurred in college, not the NFL. Active/NFI is different from reserve/NFI in that it doesn’t require Brown to miss any games or any specified amount of action. Rather, when he’s healthy enough to practice (which should be in just a few weeks, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com), he’ll be removed from the list. Brown still counts against Baltimore’s 90-man roster while he’s on active/NFI.
  • Seahawks rookie linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven has been placed on the active/physically unable to perform list, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Like active/NFI, active/PUP won’t force Burr-Kirven to miss any time, but the designation is notable because the first-year defender recently underwent sports hernia surgery. An extremely athletic fifth-round pick, BBK is expected to be ready for training camp, per Seattle head coach Pete Carroll.
  • The Bears moved offensive tackle Bradley Sowell to tight end because they believe converted defensive lineman Rashaad Coward can make the transition to offense, as J.J. Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Not only is Coward expected to complete his transition to the offensive side of the ball, he’s likely to be Chicago’s top swing tackle. He’ll have to beat out NFL journeyman Cornelius Lucas for that role, but he reportedly has the edge at the moment.

AFC Rumors: Harris, Sanders, Ravens, Titans

The Broncos employ three of the top slot cornerbacks in the league, with recent signings Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan joining longtime slot kingpin Chris Harris. Vic Fangio, however, confirmed the Broncos will also use Jackson as a safety, where he lined up in base packages all offseason. The Broncos have not settled on how they’re going to mix and match three corners who do their best work as inside cover men.

We still have some things that we have to figure out as to exactly how we are lining up our secondary, figure out the starters up front of all the positions, and then playing the different packages — the five-DB packages, the six-DB, etc.,” Fangio said, via Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (subscription required). “I think we have some versatility. We’ve got three good players that have played nickel at a high level in this league, and that is highly unusual.”

Despite his status as one of the NFL’s premier corners, Harris does not have a surefire role yet, Mark Kizsla of the Denver Post notes. The ninth-year player has previously worked as a boundary corner in Broncos base sets before shifting inside in sub-packages, which has keyed the former UDFA’s rise to prominence. Pro Football Focus graded the four-time Pro Bowler as its No. 3 corner last season. Harris has requested to play more outside corner in the past but doesn’t appear to prefer ceding too much time at his top job.

I think I have a different role every week,” Harris said, via Jhabvala. “We’ve got so many guys that are interchangeable, but we’ve got a chance of me playing all outside and then one day of me playing the inside. To me, I think it just looks different with me inside. I’m just a totally different man inside compared to everybody else.”

Here is more from Denver and the latest from other AFC cities:

  • Emmanuel Sanders‘ chances of playing Week 1 seem to be improving. The 10th-year wide receiver will not begin training camp on the Broncos’ active/PUP list, with NFL.com’s James Palmer noting (via Twitter) the team did not place anyone on that list. John Elway said Wednesday that Sanders will begin practicing with the team Thursday, though the 32-year-old wideout cautioned he would not be full-go for a bit. Sanders is attempting to recover from a December Achilles tear.
  • Ravens cornerback/return man Cyrus Jones has been dealing with a non-disclosed health issue, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic notes. Jones missed Baltimore’s offseason program, but it sounds like he will be back in time for the Ravens’ preseason slate. If so, Zreibec expects the former Patriots second-rounder to keep his job as Ravens punt returner. Jones averaged a career-best 14.4 yards per return with Baltimore last season, including a 70-yard touchdown sprint.
  • Kenneth Dixon does not appear to have as strong a chance to keep a roster spot. The fourth-year Ravens running back is behind Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and rookie Justice Hill, and Zreibec is not certain the Ravens will carry four running backs this season. Even if Baltimore does keep four backs, the injury- and suspension-limited Dixon does not appear to be a lock to beat out former Texan Tyler Ervin or second-year UDFA De’Lance Turner.
  • Staying on the running back subject, David Fluellen will likely be the Titans‘ third running back — behind Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis. The expectation entering camp is the team will not carry a fourth, per Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com, making a preseason battle between Jeremy McNichols, Dalyn Dawkins and rookie UDFA Alex Barnes more likely to be for a practice squad slot.

Broncos Notes: Sanders, Butt, Lock, CBs

After Chris Harris and Emmanuel Sanders suffered season-ending injuries in a four-day span last December, the Broncos lost their final four games and reassembled their coaching staff. The team did not make any major additions at wide receiver this offseason, waiting until the sixth round to address the spot. Sanders has shown steady progress during offseason Achilles rehab, but the 32-year-old wideout conceded Tuesday (via The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala, on Twitter) he will not be full-go to start Denver’s training camp. With the veteran not yet certain to be ready to play by Week 1, a stay on the active/PUP list to start camp seems likely. The Broncos, whom Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com ranked 31st on his list of skill-position groups, are counting on Sanders to reprise his role as a key starter.

With the Broncos two days away from training camp, here is the latest out of Denver:

  • While Sanders may not avoid the active/PUP list, it appears Jake Butt will. The third-year tight end is attempting to recover from the third torn ACL of his playing career, but the Michigan product said (via the Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran, on Twitter) he will not land on the PUP list to start camp. However, the Broncos will still ease him back to practice work. The Broncos brought back Jeff Heuerman and drafted Noah Fant, but Butt could still be a nice bonus for a team with an uncertain pass-catcher situation.
  • Denver used third-round picks in 2017 and ’18 on cornerbacks, but neither Brendan Langley nor Isaac Yiadom have a locked-in role going into camp. Langley has been moved to wide receiver, and Yiadom might not even be the favorite for the team’s No. 4 cornerback gig. The Broncos’ top three of Harris, Bryce Callahan and Kareem Jackson (in nickel sets) is set, and O’Halloran notes Alliance of American Football refugee De’Vante Bausby may be the player to beat for the Broncos’ CB4 role. Bausby played for Vic Fangio briefly in 2016 and suited up for six Eagles games last season.
  • Dalton Risner agreed to terms on his second-round rookie deal. Drew Lock has not. But the Broncos are not planning to cave to Lock’s reported aim at securing an overslot deal. They will not pay Lock more than what Risner received, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. Risner was taken 41st overall, and while Lock was projected to be a first-round pick for most of the draft process, the four-year Missouri starter went 42nd.

AFC West Notes: Gordon, Broncos, Thornhill

In examining the contract impasse between the Chargers and running back Melvin Gordon, both Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk and Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com emphasize one factor that has been largely overlooked in other reports and opinions concerning Gordon’s threat to sit out the entire season: if Gordon makes good on his threat, his contract would toll and he would still be under club control in 2020 at the same salary he would earn in 2019. So Gordon really doesn’t have a ton of leverage here, which is why Fitzgerald believes the 2015 first-round pick will ultimately be on the field come Week 1 regardless of whether he has a new deal in place.

Now for more from the AFC West, starting with additional thoughts on Gordon:

  • Fitzgerald notes that Gordon does not fit neatly into either the top tier of the league’s running backs, who have contracts paying at least $13MM per season, or into the second tier, which tops out at an AAV of $8.25MM. Fitzgerald believes that, if the Chargers want to keep Gordon for the long haul — which is still up in the air at this point — the two sides will come together on a pact that pays Gordon around $10MM per season.
  • It’s roster projection season, and Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post takes a look at the Broncos‘ WR situation. Emmanuel Sanders‘ inability to participate in the Broncos’ offseason program allowed the club to thoroughly its evaluate young pass catchers, who impressed the coaching staff with their intelligence and instincts. O’Halloran notes that Sanders could open training camp on the PUP list, and his health may force Denver to carry six receivers, good news for rookie sixth-rounder Juwann Winfree and UDFA Trinity Benson. O’Halloran believes both players will make the team.
  • In a separate piece, O’Halloran explores UDFA Ahmad Gooden‘s chances of making the Broncos. O’Halloran says Gooden drew interest from multiple teams after the draft but saw Denver as the best fit given its newfound openings at OLB. Gooden was a stand-up DE in college, but he was asked to drop into both man and zone coverage, which is a skill that’s expected of the Broncos’ outside ‘backers. If he can flash some pass rush ability, he will have a good shot.
  • Mike Klis of 9News.com examines the Broncos‘ revamped secondary, which should be a strength for the team this season. However, he notes that safety Su’a Cravens may be a long shot to make the 53-man roster. While Denver’s previous regime saw Cravens as a dime linebacker, new HC Vic Fangio says Cravens will need to make the club as a pure safety, which seems like a dubious proposition given Cravens’ struggles in coverage in 2018, his first season with the Broncos.
  • Brook Pryor of the Kansas City Star takes a shot at projecting the Chiefs‘ 53-man roster. After an impressive spring, Pryor believes UDFA Cody Thompson will fill the club’s last WR spot at least until Tyreek Hill returns from his likely suspension, and she tabs Juan Thornhill as a key piece to the Kansas City secondary. The second-round rookie from UVA looked good in spring practices before injuring his hamstring, and assuming he is ready for training camp and continues to play well, he will be the Chiefs’ starting free safety and Tyrann Mathieu will be able to play closer to the line, which is his preference.

Emmanuel Sanders Uncertain For Week 1

The Broncos are going to be counting on their young receivers in 2019. Emmanuel Sanders was Denver’s top option last year, but he went down with a torn Achilles late in the year.

His recovery has reportedly been going smoothly, but the veteran is unsure if he’ll be ready when the season starts. Sanders said recently that “being available for the Broncos’ opener ‘feels realistic,’” per Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (Twitter link). While that certainly doesn’t mean he’ll definitely miss regular season time, “realistic” doesn’t exactly sound like a huge vote of confidence from Sanders.

Jhabvala adds that Sanders was unwilling to provide “a concrete timetable on his comeback.” Sanders’ injury was especially tough because he had been having a great season before going down. After a tough 2017, he had reestablished himself as a top receiver, racking up 868 yards in just 12 games. Shortly before Sanders went down, the Broncos traded away longtime staple of their receiving corp Demaryius Thomas.

The Broncos are now thin on veterans, and will be leaning on second-year players like Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton. Achilles injuries can be tricky, and Sanders is 32 now. Even when he comes back, he likely won’t be 100 percent right away, and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to regain his prior form. Denver’s offense is going to look completely different next season with Joe Flacco under center and new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello calling plays.

Back in May, Sanders shared a video of himself doing his first post-surgery sprints, but it’s a long road back from such a devastating injury. Sutton, a 2018 second-round pick from SMU, showed a lot of promise as a rookie, and he’ll be counted on to play a much bigger role next year. For Flacco’s sake, hopefully Sanders is able to make it back soon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC West Notes: Jones, Raiders, Broncos

The Chiefs entered the offseason with two major extensions on tap, but considering Tyreek Hill‘s situation, that number has almost certainly dwindled to one. And Chris Jones looks to be staying away from the team for the time being. Jones did not show for the Chiefs’ voluntary workouts this week, Terez Paylor of Yahoo.com reports. While this may not be contract-related, the now-extension-eligible interior defender may be sending an early message to his team. The Chiefs just gave trade acquisition Frank Clark a massive extension, and despite Clark’s presence as the Seahawks’ top pass rusher last season, Jones outperformed him with 15.5 sacks — far and away the most in Chiefs single-season history for an inside defender. Considering Fletcher Cox received $17.1MM per year after a 9.5-sack season, and on a $155MM cap in 2016, Jones’ representation will surely argue the Pro Bowl snub deserves to be the highest-paid non-Aaron Donald interior lineman in the game.

Here is the latest from the AFC West, shifting to a lineman that already received a massive contract:

  • Although the Raiders gave Trent Brown the biggest contract in tackle history, they plan to use him at right tackle. Jon Gruden confirmed (via NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo, on Twitter) Kolton Miller will stay at left tackle and Brown, who signed a $16.5MM-AAV deal in March, will return to the right-edge spot he occupied in San Francisco. The Patriots used Brown at left tackle, and he played a key role in their championship push in the playoffs. However, this may be geared toward the Raiders’ competition. Von Miller consistently rushes against right tackles, as does Joey Bosa. It is possible Clark will too, though that has yet to be determined. Nevertheless, Brown now easily usurps Denver’s Ja’Wuan James ($12.75MM per year) as the NFL’s highest-paid right tackle.
  • Mike Mayock identified a new key presence in his scouting department. Cowboys west coast area scout Jim Abrams will become the Raiders’ new college scouting director, Alex Marvez of Sirius XM Radio and ESPN.com’s Todd Archer report (Twitter links). Abrams worked with Gruden during part of the Raiders HC’s Buccaneers tenure and has nearly 30 years of NFL experience.
  • The Broncos did use one of their six draft choices on a wide receiver, waiting until Round 6 to do so (Juwann Winfree), but did not add any notable wideouts in free agency. They are counting on Emmanuel Sanders to return from his Achilles injury. Sanders made another key step in his rehab recently, taking to Instagram to show his first on-field sprint following his December injury. Sanders, 32, is entering the final year of his contract.
  • While the Broncos did take a quarterback in the second round, they appear to have their eyes on another developmental project at the position. Their UDFA deal with Brett Rypien comes with a $146K base salary guarantee and a $10K signing bonus, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. This virtually assures the Boise State product and nephew of former Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien of making Denver’s practice squad, with 9News’ Mike Klis reporting (on Twitter) he will receive $136K if he is part of the Broncos’ taxi unit. That is well north of most P-squad salaries. Rypien’s guarantee represents the largest of John Elway‘s nine-year tenure, per Klis (on Twitter). That said, Joe Flacco, Drew Lock and Kevin Hogan remain likely to be the quarterbacks on Denver’s 53-man roster. The Broncos may have to hope no team claims Rypien if and when he is waived after the preseason.

Broncos Exercise Sanders, Harris Options

As expected, Broncos picked up Emmanuel Sanders‘ $1.5MM option on Monday, according to Mike Klis of 9News (on Twitter). With that, Sanders has $1.5MM fully guaranteed on his scheduled $10.25MM payout for 2019. For his part, Sanders has said he’s way ahead of schedule in his rehab from an Achilles injury. 

The Broncos also picked up their option on cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (Twitter link). The option, worth $1MM, will be followed by an additional $7.9MM payout in 2019.

Sanders, who will turn 32 on Sunday, recently balked at a potential pay cut. The Broncos, however, did not ask for a pay cut, so that was pretty much a moot point. Thanks to his fast recovery, Sanders should be able to return at some point during training camp.

Harris, meanwhile, is entering the final season of a five-year, $42.5MM deal. The contract has proven to be a tremendous value for the Broncos as Harris has blossomed into one of this era’s best cornerbacks. In 2018, Harris graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 3 overall CB. An extension could be on the way, but the Broncos first want to see how free agency plays out.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Plan To Keep Emmanuel Sanders

By releasing Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos could create more than $10MM in cap space. However, they would create a major need at wide receiver by doing so. It does not appear they plan to go in this direction.

Vic Fangio said Wednesday (via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post) Sanders is expected to have a major role next season. The new Denver HC also said the Broncos are expected to have Sanders back in the lineup by Week 1. This would be significant, considering the Pro Bowl wideout tore an Achilles’ tendon in early December.

John Elway confirmed Wednesday afternoon the team will pick up the options of both Sanders and Derek Wolfe, who has a $1MM option.

Sanders, who will turn 32 next month, recently balked at a potential pay cut. The Broncos, however, have not asked for this. They have Sanders under contract for one more season — at $10.15MM — and have a $1.5MM option to pick up soon. This looks set to happen, and Sanders will continue his rehab with an apparent goal of returning some point during training camp.

Demaryius Thomas‘ longtime running mate is the final skill-position player remaining from the Broncos’ Super Bowl champion team. The Broncos traded Thomas at last year’s deadline, with his contract more expensive than Sanders’ and the latter having surpassed him as the team’s No. 1 option — at least during the 2018 season. Sanders was on pace for more than 1,100 receiving yards before going down in early December. Denver lost Sanders and Chris Harris within a span of four days, and its three-game midseason win streak gave way to a four-game, season-ending skid.

Denver drafted Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton last year, and UDFA Tim Patrick showed promise. But the Broncos are, barring something unexpected, planning to have Sanders around for the start of Joe Flacco‘s tenure.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.