Emmanuel Sanders

Bills, Packers Pursued Emmanuel Sanders

Emmanuel Sanders became the third-highest-paid wide receiver free agent this offseason, trailing younger cogs Amari Cooper and Robby Anderson. But before signing a two-year, $16MM Saints deal, the veteran received extensive interest on the market.

In addition to the 49ers wanting to retain him and some interest from the Cowboys and Jets, two 2019 playoff teams sought Sanders. The Bills and Packers were in the mix for the 33-year-old wideout, Sanders confirmed.

Both teams contacted him on the first day of the legal tampering period, as did the 49ers. While the Bills discussed a deal with Sanders, they reached an agreement to acquire Stefon Diggs less than an hour after the sides’ phone call.

I spoke with the Bills for a little bit and I told them, ‘Let me think about the idea; give me a night,'” Sanders said during an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show (audio link). “And 30 minutes later the Stefon Diggs deal went through and I was like, ‘OK.’ So then I kind of waited. I was talking to Green Bay; I was talking to the Niners, just trying to figure out what type of deal, what type of money we’re talking about. And then the Saints called. I was ecstatic about them, the opportunity to play with Drew Brees, and the numbers made sense.”

While Buffalo unloaded a major asset to bolster its receiving corps with a younger player, Green Bay took the cheaper route in signing Devin Funchess. The Packers figure to still be in the market for receivers when the draft opens. Their Davante Adams sidekick contingent has not panned out, leaving the Packers with a clear need. The 49ers acquired the No. 13 overall pick from the Colts in the DeForest Buckner trade, and they also will likely be in the running for a first-round wide receiver.

Sanders said he signed with the Saints because of their consistent offense reminding him of his first season with the Broncos, in 2014, and because of Brees’ two-year contract. It is not yet known if Brees will play in 2021, but Sanders appears to be rooting for that to happen.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints To Sign Emmanuel Sanders

The Saints are making a big move. New Orleans has agreed to sign free agent Emmanuel Sanders to a two-year deal, the receiver told Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The deal has a base value of $16MM and can be worth up to $19MM, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

The receiver market has been slow to develop outside of a couple of signings, and this could help get the ball rolling. We heard last week that the 49ers were hoping Sanders would have a poor market so they could re-sign him cheaply, but obviously that didn’t happen. Even after they re-signed Amari Cooper, we heard that Dallas was interested in adding Sanders.

The Jets were also interested in reuniting Sanders with Adam Gase, a source told Mike Klis of Denver 9 News (Twitter link), so it sounds like his market ended up being relatively strong. Schefter also tweeted that he spoke with the Packers as well. It’s a nice pickup for the Saints, who struggled for consistent options behind Michael Thomas last season. Thomas was obviously setting records, but Drew Brees was often throwing to a rotating cast of formerly undrafted guys beyond him.

They now have a consistent number two option, even though Sanders is getting up there in age. The SMU product turned 33 earlier this week, but he remained productive last year. Playing in 17 regular season games because of a mid-season trade from the Broncos to San Francisco, Sanders had 66 receptions for 869 yards and five touchdowns.

He had a couple of huge blowup games with the 49ers, but overall didn’t seem to have the best connection with Jimmy Garoppolo. Sanders put up some gaudy numbers with Peyton Manning, and won Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos. He tore his Achilles late in the 2018 season which many thought would slow him down physically, but he bounced back admirably well.

The Saints are going all in on one last championship run with Brees, so this move makes a lot of sense and shores up one of their few weaknesses. With Sanders off the market, Robby Anderson is probably the top receiver still available. Guys like Breshad Perriman, Phillip Dorsett, Devin Funchess, and Nelson Agholor are also left.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Interested In Emmanuel Sanders

The Cowboys have expressed interest in Emmanuel Sanders, according to Jane Slater of NFL.com (on Twitter). For the SMU product, it would mark a return to Texas. Meanwhile, the Cowboys would get another proven vet to help replace Randall Cobb, who has moved on to the Texans

Sanders, a two-time Pro Bowler, trains in Dallas in the offseason and Slater hears that the interest is mutual. Last year, Sanders was shipped from the Broncos to the 49ers midway through the season and caught 36 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns for his new team. He was a little quieter in the playoff run to the Super Bowl with five receptions for 71 yards in the postseason.

The Cowboys re-upped Amari Cooper on a five-year, $100MM deal on Monday, meaning that he’ll return as the team’s WR1 for 2020 and beyond. The Cowboys also have receivers Michael Gallup, Devin Smith, and Cedrick Wilson under contract. Whether they sign Sanders or not, you can expect to see another notable name join the group.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Rumors: Cousins, 49ers, Seahawks

Prior to the Patriots sending Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for merely a second-round pick, rumblings of a Kyle ShanahanKirk Cousins reunion occurred. Shanahan admitted Cousins was in the 49ers’ pre-Garoppolo plans. Although Garoppolo just quarterbacked the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV, the prospect of the 49ers jettisoning Garoppolo and signing Cousins in 2021 has popped up on some radars around the league, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Cousins’ fully guaranteed Vikings contract expires at season’s end, and Garoppolo’s 49ers-friendly deal contains no more guaranteed money.

Cousins played under Shanahan with the Redskins from 2012-13, though Robert Griffin III was Washington’s starter for most of that span. Cousins will turn 32 this year, and the cap-strapped Vikings are expected to explore an extension for their third-year starter soon. If no deal gets done by Week 1, the throwback Cousins-to-San Francisco plotline may gain steam.

Here is the latest from the NFC West, moving first to the defensive side of the 49ers’ depth chart:

  • DeForest Buckner‘s fifth-year option price will drop from $14.36MM to $12.38MM, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). This reflects Buckner’s place as a defensive tackle, and not an end, in the 49ers’ 4-3 scheme. The 49ers hope to finalize a Buckner extension this offseason, and this adjustment figures to play into the talks. The Pro Bowl inside defender is entering a contract year.
  • Linked to being less than eager to wade into deep salary waters to retain Jadeveon Clowney, the Seahawks may be concerned with the free agent-to-be’s injury history. That could well be the reason the Seahawks are not prepared to pay Clowney north of $20MM AAV, John Clayton of 710 AM Seattle notes. A few other Clowney suitors have emerged — including the Giants, Colts and Titans — and Clayton expects the 2019 trade acquisition to leave Seattle soon.
  • Not only is Clowney a free agent, but so are D-linemen Jarran Reed, Quinton Jefferson and Ziggy Ansah. The Seahawks would like to re-sign Jefferson, but Clayton adds that the defensive tackle has generated steady interest on the market. Jefferson has 6.5 sacks over the past two seasons and, thanks to plus run defense, graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 27 interior defender in 2019.
  • The 49ers will be in the market for receiver help, but Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required) the cap space-starved franchise’s likely goal will be for a modest Emmanuel Sanders market to entice him to re-sign. Shanahan and John Lynch may be waiting to see what teams offer the soon-to-be 33-year-old wideout, with Sanders revealing this week he and the 49ers had not engaged in an extension talks this offseason.
  • Despite the 49ers using Tevin Coleman as their RB2 in Super Bowl LIV, Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida remain low-cost options and may have better routes back to the 2020 roster. In addition to Jerick McKinnon needing to redo his lucrative deal to stay on the team, Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News writes Coleman might have to do the same. It would be interesting to see Shanahan cut bait on Coleman, whom he’s now coached for two teams. Coleman is set to make $4.55MM in base salary in the final year of his deal.

49ers Pushing For DeForest Buckner Extension

DeForest Buckner is set to hit free agency following the 2020 season, and the 49ers are apparently motivated to sign him to a long-term deal. Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com writes that the organization is “pushing to try to make” an extension a “reality.”

The 2016 first-round pick has emerged as one of the 49ers top players, as he’s collected 19.5 sacks over the past two seasons. He got a Pro Bowl nod following his breakout 2018 campaign, and he earned first-team All-Pro recognition following the 2019 season.

Last April, the organization exercised the fifth-year option on the defensive tackle. He’ll earn a $14.36MM base salary in 2020 before hitting free agency next spring.

While the 49ers may be working on an extension for Buckner, the front office will also have to switch focus to their current free agents. Earlier today, wideout Emmanuel Sanders revealed that his camp hasn’t had any discussions with the 49ers regarding a new contract (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: Barkley, 49ers, Lockett

The Giants may be a long shot to make the postseason, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to shut down their star players. When asked if the team would rest running back Saquon Barkley, head coach Pat Shurmur responded with an emphatic “absolutely not” (via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY).

Shurmur had previously acknowledged that Barkley was a bit banged up, and that was evident after the running back compiled a single rushing yard on 13 carries during the Giants’ loss to the Jets on Sunday. ESPN’s Jordan Raanan reports that Barkley had an X-ray on his shoulder after the game. There was some thought that the 22-year-old was suffering from an ankle or leg injury, but Barkley acknowledged that his legs are still feeling good.

The Giants and Barkley will look to get back on track when they return from their bye week. The team will visit the Bears on November 24th.

Let’s check out some more injury notes from around the NFL…

  • We’ve got some updates on key 49ers skill players. ESPN’s Adam Schefter notes (on Twitter) that wideout Emmanuel Sanders‘s s-rays for a rib injury were inconclusive. The veteran was set to undergo an MRI today to determine the extent of the “damage.” Meanwhile, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweets that running back Matt Breida will get a second opinion on his sprained ankle. While the injury isn’t thought to be serious, Breida may still be sidelined for several games.
  • Seahawks wideout Tyler Lockett was at the hospital last night getting treatment for a leg contusion, but Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com passes along that the receiver is alright. Coach Pete Carroll told 710 ESPN that the bruise caused a “pretty severe situation” thanks to the subsequent swelling, and Lockett didn’t return with the team to Seattle. The 27-year-old is having another productive season, hauling in 62 receptions for 793 yards and four touchdowns.
  • Some good news out of Indy: Colts coach Frank Reich told reporters that wideout Devin Funchess should return to practice this week. “Technically, he could be cleared to play the game,” Reich said (via Jim Ayello of the Indy Star). “But he’s got a few more boxes to check. We have to make sure he’s good to go because this will really be his first week of practice. Then we still have to see how much he’ll be able to do Wednesday. We’re really encouraged. I think there’s another box he has to check before we can go full boar on the practice.” Funchess landed on the IR after breaking his collarbone during the season opener.
  • Bengals tight end Drew Sample suffered a high ankle sprain this past weekend, reports NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter). The 2019 second-rounder will undergo additional tests to determine how much time he’ll miss, but Rapoport notes that he’s a candidate for the injured reserve. The rookie has hauled in five catches for 30 yards in nine games (two starts) this season.

Designated To Return: Broncos, Lions, Titans

With roughly half of the 2019 campaign in the books, NFL clubs have started to exercise their right to return players from injured reserve. Each team is allowed to bring two players back from IR, but said players must have been retained on their respective club’s initial 53-man roster. Once an IR player returns to practice, his club will have three weeks to decide whether to activate him to their 53-man roster; if he’s not activated, the player will remain on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.

Here are three players who have been designated to return from IR this week:

  • Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick has returned to practice and has been designated to return, as Mike Klis of 9News tweets. A 2017 undrafted free agent, Patrick suffered a broken hand in Week 1 of the 2019 campaign but is now ready for action. Patrick broke out in the final month of last season, posting 19 receptions for 242 yards during the last quarter of the campaign. When he returns to game action, Patrick could see a significant role in a now Emmanuel Sanders-less receiving corps.
  • The Lions have designated defensive end Austin Bryant to return from IR, and he practiced Wednesday, the club announced today. Bryant was selected in the fourth round of the 2019 draft, so he’s yet to play an NFL snap. During his final two seasons at Clemson, Bryant posted 17 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss. If activated, Bryant could help a Detroit defensive line that currently ranks bottom-seven in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders.
  • Defensive back Josh Kalu has been designated to return from IR by the Titans, per Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com (Twitter link). An undrafted free agent out of Nebraska in 2018, Kalu spent most of last year on Tennessee’s practice squad before being promoted in December. He played in five games and saw action on 48 special teams snaps.

Trade Notes: Browns, Broncos, Eagles, Patriots, Saints, Lions

The Patriots and 49ers strengthened their aerial groups Tuesday, and the Saints are exploring the idea of doing the same. New Orleans is pursuing pass catchers, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (on Twitter). The Saints made a late-season addition of Dez Bryant last year but saw the longtime Cowboy go down before playing in a 2018 game. This Saints iteration has surprised many by going 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater at the controls, firmly placing the team in the contention picture. This offense has long funneled through Michael Thomas, with a steep drop existing between New Orleans’ No. 1 target and its other receiving targets. A.J. Green could be available, but the Bengals wideout may not be healthy by the deadline. Robby Anderson could also be a trade candidate, as could Demaryius Thomas (again).

Here is the latest from the trade market. Seven days remain until this year’s deadline.

  • Cornerback dominoes have fallen as well, with the Rams, Ravens and Texans making plays for key cogs. The Eagles‘ shaky pass defense features a notable need at corner, and the team has contacted the Broncos about Chris Harris, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. The Eagles were ready to send first- and second-round picks to the Jaguars for Jalen Ramsey. Harris is five years older and in a contract year, but it will likely take a Day 2 pick to pry him from Denver. The Texans tried to acquire the 30-year-old standout as well but evidently were not amenable to the Broncos’ asking price.
  • It does not look like a Trent Williams-to-Cleveland scenario will transpire. The Browns have repeatedly inquired about the Redskins tackle, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes (via Twitter) they have accepted the fact Washington will stick to its guns and hold onto him. Washington has Williams signed through 2020 but has not seen him budge on his holdout. The Redskins are believed to prefer waiting until the offseason to trade him, in order to learn where every team’s draft capital resides.
  • The Patriots paid up to acquire Mohamed Sanu from the Falcons, parting ways with a second-round pick for the eighth-year wideout. But they were also in talks with the Broncos about Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Klis of 9News notes. The Pats signed Sanders to an RFA offer sheet in 2013, but the Steelers matched. This marked the second straight year the Patriots wanted one of the Broncos’ starting wideouts, having tried to acquire Demaryius Thomas before the 2018 deadline. San Francisco landed Sanders for third- and fourth-round picks.
  • The Lions surprised many by dealing starting safety Quandre Diggs to the Seahawks, doing so despite Diggs being signed through 2021. Lions brass viewed Diggs’ play as having fallen off, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link), and called multiple teams about moving him. The Lions landed a 2020 fifth-round pick for Diggs, who is now a Seahawk. The play of young safeties Tracy Walker and Will Harris helped induce the Lions to pull the trigger, Birkett adds. Walker and Harris grade as top-40 safeties, per PFF, which has Diggs slotted outside the top 60. Diggs is only 26, however. This trade gives the Seahawks access to a key part of his prime.

Broncos Notes: Sanders, Harris, Patrick

A year after trading the other half of their Super Bowl 50 starting receiver tandem, the Broncos dealt Emmanuel Sanders to the 49ers. The interest in Sanders had escalated to the point five teams were in on him, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic notes (subscription required). John Elway hinted at a Sanders-related event occurring between the Titans and Chiefs games, with Jhabvala adding it didn’t sit well with the GM. Sanders also wanted to be traded, per Jhabvala, and expressed that desire in a meeting with Elway and Vic Fangio last week.

This Broncos return — third- and fourth-round picks — is considerably better than the one they fetched for Demaryius Thomas, whom the Texans acquired for a fourth-rounder last October. Sanders had grown into Denver’s top wideout last season and rehabbed an Achilles tear to the point he was a key factor in this Broncos offense. But over the past three games, the 32-year-old took a backseat to Courtland Sutton and had caught just seven passes for 69 yards. The Broncos now have seven picks in the first four rounds of the 2020 draft.

Here is the latest from the Broncos, who may not be done selling.

  • Interest has naturally developed for Chris Harris, but the teams that were interested added other corners in recent days, per Mike Klis of 9News (on Twitter). The Texans pursued Harris but instead acquired Gareon Conley from the Raiders for a third-rounder, pointing to the Broncos setting a higher asking price for their four-time Pro Bowler. With Wade Phillips running the Rams’ defense, it’s likely they were interested in reuniting Harris and Aqib Talib. They bet bigger on Jalen Ramsey instead. Harris will obviously be a name to watch before the Oct. 29 trade deadline.
  • The contract-year corner is expected to test the market next year, after he and the Broncos could not come to terms on an extension this offseason. But Harris said he has not approached Elway about a deal now and still wants to finish his career with the Broncos, per Jhabvala (Twitter links). The Broncos do not have an obvious replacement for Harris like they did with Sanders (DaeSean Hamilton), so a trade there would stand to limit the 2019 team more.
  • An interesting piece of the Broncos’ IR equation will take shape as a result of the Sanders trade. Elway said Tim Patrick will be one of the team’s IR-return players. Patrick, an auxiliary wideout for last season’s Denver team, cannot return until Week 11. With Drew Lock having returned to practice, this points to the Broncos’ two spots being spoken for. That would leave Theo Riddick and Jake Butt in line to miss the season. The Broncos signed Riddick for one year and $2.5MM.
  • Being without safety starter Will Parks, the Broncos auditioned veterans Marcus Gilchrist and Kentrell Brice, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Gilchrist spent last season with the Raiders and was a Charger from 2011-14. Brice started 10 games for the Packers last season and spent time with the Buccaneers earlier this year. Denver also worked out defensive linemen DeShawn Williams and Joel Heath.

Broncos Trade Emmanuel Sanders To 49ers

The Broncos have traded wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to the 49ers, according to Mike Klis of 9News (on Twitter). The deal will send Sanders and a 2020 fifth-round pick to the Niners with 2020 third- and fourth-round picks going to Denver, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets

The trade talk around Sanders has been percolating for some time. The Niners, meanwhile, have been on the hunt for a game-changing wide receiver. Mohamed Sanu, one of the top available WRs leading up to the trade deadline, was snagged by the Patriots in a Tuesday morning trade. Instead, the 49ers pivoted to Sanders, who offers a lengthy playmaking resume.

Through seven games, Sanders has 30 catches for 367 yards and two touchdowns. While those aren’t bad numbers, he’ll aim to get back towards his old form. Last year, Sanders managed 71 catches for 868 yards and four touchdowns in just 12 games. In 2014, his first season with the Broncos, he set career highs of 101 grabs for 1,404 yards and nine TDs. Sanders’ best ball might be behind him, but he’s still plenty dangerous, the potential is there for him to be a difference-maker as one of Jimmy Garoppolo‘s top targets.

In this deal, the Broncos managed to acquire draft capital while giving up a 32-year-old player in the final year of his deal. It was a solid move for GM John Elway, who likely isn’t done working the phones. There’s still a week to go before the trade deadline and the Broncos are clearly willing to sell after their loss to the Patrick Mahomes-less Chiefs. At this point, all eyes are on cornerback Chris Harris Jr. Elway has implied that Harris, Von Miller, and Derek Wolfe are staying put, but he said roughly the same thing about all of the team’s big “names” just days ago, and that group certainly included Sanders.

Outside of tight end George Kittle, the Niners were lacking proven receiving talents. In fact, none of the 49ers wide receivers have eclipsed the 200-yard mark or scored more than one touchdown this season. Sanders knows a thing or two about finding the end zone, however – he’s scored 39 career touchdowns for the Steelers and Broncos across his NFL career. If Sanders can produce – and mentor Dante Pettis and Deebo Samuel – he’ll be well worth the price. The Niners will be in even better shape if Trent Taylor returns to action later this year.

Sanu and Sanders are spoken for, but A.J. Green (Bengals), Taylor Gabriel (Bears), and DeVante Parker (Dolphins) are still available for trade between now and Tuesday buzzer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.