Emmanuel Sanders

Emmanuel Sanders Undergoes Surgery

On Wednesday, Emmanuel Sanders‘ season was cut short when he torn his Achilles during practice. On Friday, the veteran receiver underwent successful surgery and is expected to miss six-to-eight months, the NFL Network’s James Palmer tweets

The loss was a huge blow to the suddenly resurgent Broncos’ playoff chances. Though the team has won three consecutive games, it will have to replace its top receiver with a collection of rookie pass catchers in Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton.

Sanders had posted 71 receptions and 868 yards before the injury and was on pace for one of his best seasons in the league. With four games remaining, the nine-year veteran was well on pace to post his fourth 1,000-yard season and was likely to record his second-most receptions in a single campaign.

The rehab time frame sets him up to return for the 2019 season, which will be the final one on his contract. Though expected to make $10.15MM in base salary next season, the Broncos can release him with just $2.687MM in dead money.

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Broncos’ Emmanuel Sanders Suffers Torn Achilles

Awful news out of Denver. During Wednesday’s practice, Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders suffered a torn Achilles tendon, according to Mike Klis of 9News (on Twitter). 

Sanders is the team’s top receiver and losing him is a huge blow to the team’s playoff hopes. The 6-6 Broncos are riding a three-game winning streak, but they’ll have to make their late season push without the help of their best offensive weapon.

Prior to the injury, Sanders hauled in 71 catches for 868 yards and four touchdowns. Statistically speaking, he was on pace for his second-best season behind a 2014 campaign in which he had 101 catches for 1,404 yards and nine TDs.

The Broncos have lost three other starters (center Matt Paradis, left guard Max Garcia, and tight end Jeff Heuerman) to IR over the past month and cornerback Chris Harris could be next depending on how fast he can recover from a fractured fibula. The Broncos have an easy draw in the 2-10 49ers this weekend, but they’ll be at half-strength for the rest of the regular season, including a Week 17 matchup against the Chargers.

In hindsight, the Broncos may or may not regret their midseason trade of Demaryius Thomas. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and the Broncos will have to bank on youngster Courtland Sutton even more going forward. It’s likely that Tim Patrick will line up on the opposite side of Sutton the rest of the way with DaeSean Hamiton stepping into Sanders’ role.

Sanders, 32 in March, is under contract through next year with a cap number of $12.9MM. It’s worth keeping an eye on his recovery – which often takes 7-8 months – as the Broncos can release him with just $2.687MM in dead money.

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AFC Rumors: Sanders, Slauson, Ravens, Jets

Following in the footsteps of Plaxico Burress, Emmanuel Sanders has thrived after leaving the Steelers. Pittsburgh’s permitted many of its wideout finds to depart over the years, prioritizing only long-term partnerships with Hines Ward and Antonio Brown this century. In advance of the latest Broncos-Steelers game, Sanders said (via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Chris Adamski) Mike Tomlin told him prior to 2014 free agency the Steelers “didn’t have the money to pay me.” Denver added Sanders to a $5MM-per-year accord then extended him two years later.

The Steelers have let Sanders, Mike Wallace, Santonio Holmes, Martavis Bryant and Antwaan Randle-El go either after the wideouts’ rookie deals expired or, in Bryant’s case, trading him away. But Pittsburgh continues to find wideout talent, with JuJu Smith-Schuster being the latest such discovery. After an injury-plagued 2017, Sanders (763 receiving yards) is on pace for his fourth 1,000-yard season in five years with the Broncos. He’s signed through 2019. Despite a $10.15MM base salary next year, the 31-year-old pass-catcher may be in line to play out his contract. The Broncos traded Demaryius Thomas, with Courtland Sutton waiting in the wings, but don’t have an obvious Sanders replacement lined up just yet.

Here’s the latest from the AFC on this NFC-only Thanksgiving:

  • It doesn’t sound like Matt Slauson has immediate retirement plans, despite suffering a scary back injury, Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star notes. The first-year Colts lineman has contributed plenty to the cause despite being sidelined for much of this year, with Keefer noting he’s helped Indianapolis’ younger linemen. The Colts haven’t allowed Andrew Luck to be sacked in 214 straight pass attempts; that’s the longest since the Redskins kept Mark Rypien upright for 252 straight pass plays during the franchise’s 1991 Super Bowl season. Slauson continues to work out with teammates but is 32 and only signed through 2018.
  • Both Joe Flacco and Alex Collins missed the Ravens‘ Thanksgiving practice, per Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun. Flacco has not practiced since suffering the hip injury that has him sidelined. He’s expected to miss at least one more week, giving Lamar Jackson another audition opportunity. Collins played last week but has dealt with a foot injury throughout the season, per Shaffer.
  • Signs continue to point to Josh McCown receiving another Jets start. Sam Darnold did not participate in team drills Thursday, missing a second straight day of such work, according to the Associated Press. The rookie starter suited up Wednesday for the first time since straining his right foot but did not throw a pass in individual drills. McCown appears to be in line to face the Patriots, with Todd Bowles indicating (via the New York Post’s George Willis) the team will err on the side of caution. So, unless Darnold makes some significant strides by Friday, he’ll likely rest for at least one more week.

Broncos’ Emmanuel Sanders Drawing Interest

Teams are calling on Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, as Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com tweets. The Broncos would prefer to unload Demaryius Thomas‘ bloated contract, but Thomas wouldn’t net them much (or anything) in a trade that would effectively be a salary dump. 

This jibes with a previous report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, who hears that the Broncos are willing to part with Thomas, but not Sanders. The Broncos are understandably reluctant to part with Sanders, who is on pace for nearly 1,300 yards this season. Thomas, meanwhile, has just 372 yards through seven games, making him more than expendable.

Teams could be intrigued by the possibility of Thomas getting back to his old form, but his contract is a major barrier. The 31-year-old is signed through 2019 with cap numbers of $12MM and $17.53MM in the next two years. Even teams with ample cap room would be wary of that obligation and would be unwilling to sacrifice much in the way of draft capital for the aging receiver.

Teams are also reportedly interested in cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Chris Harris, but it’s unclear as to whether the Broncos are willing to part with either player.

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Trade Rumors: Raiders, Cooper, Cowboys, Broncos

The trade deadline is just nine days away, and earlier this morning, we learned that the Saints and Eagles could be two of the most aggressive teams as they seek to bolster their rosters for a potential championship run. Here are a few more notes from the trade market:

  • Per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link), many Raiders players believe that head coach Jon Gruden is simply not happy with his collection of talent, and that there will be major roster turnover within the next several years. In fact, those players feel it will take up to two years for Gruden to assemble the type of roster he wants, and while rival GMs are not sure they can swing a deal with Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie alone, they believe they can make headway with Gruden. The Raiders are clearly in a state of upheaval right now, and the sense is that everyone on the team is available for the right price.
  • Raiders receiver Amari Cooper is clearly available via trade, and Rapoport says that the team has had the most significant discussions about Cooper with NFC East clubs, including the Cowboys. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com confirms that Dallas is doing its due diligence on Cooper, and Albert Breer of TheMMQB thinks there would be teams willing to part with a second-round choice for him, though it does not seem likely that Oakland will get the first-rounder it is reportedly seeking. Breer reports that the team wants a third-round pick in exchange for safety Karl Joseph.
  • In addition to Cooper, the Cowboys are monitoring Dolphins WR DeVante Parker and Bills WR Kelvin Benjamin, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (via Twitter). The Eagles have also spoken to Miami about Parker, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (via Twitter).
  • Teams are very much interested in Broncos receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and corners Bradley Roby and Chris Harris, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Schefter writes that Denver is willing to part with Thomas, but not Sanders.
  • The Jaguars are not mulling a trade for a quarterback to challenge incumbent Blake Bortles, per Schefter. Despite another mediocre season from Bortles, the Jags “believe that the quarterback position is the least of their issues.”

Saints, Eagles Could Be Aggressive At Trade Deadline

The Saints and Eagles are expected to be among the most aggressive teams in advance of the October 30 trade deadline, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, who adds that the two clubs are interested in a few of the same players.

Interestingly, La Canfora writes that Philadelphia is still monitoring the trade markets for Le’Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy, though recent reports surrounding both running backs suggest that they will be staying with their current teams. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer says it would not cost much to get McCoy, despite what the Bills have been saying, but it does not seem likely that the Eagles will reunite with their former star. Instead, in keeping with previous reports, it sounds as if the Eagles are content with their running back situation, and Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets that the team sees a defensive tackle, secondary help, and a field-stretching wide receiver as bigger priorities.

La Canfora also writes that the Eagles are seeking another receiving option and a quality corner, and he says the Saints are looking for upgrades at the same positions. The Raiders are said to be shopping Amari Cooper, who is probably the best wide receiver who could be had at the deadline, but Larry Fitzgerald and Emmanuel Sanders may also be in play. Meanwhile, Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, and Bradley Roby are some of the corners who have been attracting the interest of rival clubs.

The Saints are currently 4-1 and are atop the NFC South, and they are clearly in win-now mode as they hope to bring home another Lombardi Trophy before Drew Brees, 39, hangs up the cleats. The defending champion Eagles are just 3-3 but are very much alive in the wide open NFC East.

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Extra Points: Sanders, Eagles, Lions

Emmanuel Sanders became one of the NFL’s upper-echelon wide receivers since signing with the Broncos, stringing together three straight 1,000-yard seasons and being Peyton Manning‘s top postseason target en route to Denver’s Super Bowl 50 title. But the 31-year-old pass-catcher saw the Broncos change the equation this offseason. After three seasons featuring scant production behind Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, Denver drafted two wideouts — second-rounder Courtland Sutton and fourth-rounder DaeSean Hamilton — to try and build depth behind its experienced duo. Considering Sanders has a $12.94MM cap number in 2019, one that would cost the Broncos barely $2MM to shed, he may see the writing on the wall heading into his fifth year with the team.

Even prior to them signing those young guys, even when I signed the contract … only two years are guaranteed and after that it’s year-to-year,” Sanders said, via Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (subscription required) of his September 2016 extension. “You play long enough and you start understanding these contracts are not guaranteed. And, truthfully, for everybody, including Von Miller, it’s year-to-year, because who knows what might happen? Who knows what situation might play out?

I always play like that, like it’s always year-to-year. I got something to prove this year and if I don’t prove it to the Broncos, then I’ll be proving it to some other team.”

Denver has both Thomas and Sanders signed through 2019, the former with a cap number slated to climb to $17.53MM next year. So, the team will have some big decisions to make a year from now regarding one of the top receiving duos in franchise history.

Here’s the latest from around the league:

  • After receiving his initial OTA reps at left guard, Lions first-rounder Frank Ragnow is expected to start his career there, per Nate Atkins of MLive.com. This would likely mean using improving talent Graham Glasgow at center. Glasgow lined up at center at times during both of his first two seasons but spent more time at guard in a breakout 2017. The Lions were planning to try Glasgow at center at the offseason’s outset, and that experiment may continue into training camp. Ragnow was Pro Football Focus’ top-rated center in each of the past two years while at Arkansas. Newly acquired Wesley Johnson, the Jets’ starting center for the past 1 1/2 years, would then represent a depth piece.
  • Sixth-year defensive lineman Cornelius Washington resides on the Lions’ roster bubble, Atkins notes. The former Bears defender is entering the second season of a two-year, $6MM deal. Washington played 488 snaps last season at defensive end with Detroit, registering 2.5 sacks. The Lions, though, drafted Da’Shawn Hand in the fourth round this year, and Atkins envisions Washington being close to the chopping block as a result.
  • The Eagles are planning to use Jay Ajayi as their unquestioned starter, and Darren Sproles will join emerging second-year back Corey Clement after missing most of last season. The defending Super Bowl champions are likely to keep a No. 4 back on the active roster, per Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia, who doesn’t expect that to be 2017 draftee Donnel Pumphrey. Despite Pumphrey being yet to show what he can do after an injury wiped out his entire rookie season, the former fourth-round pick is battling one-time Redskins starter-turned-castoff Matt Jones. Zangaro expects Jones to win that battle. The Eagles also have Wendell Smallwood and paid a premium to add UDFA Josh Adams this year, creating an intriguing competition for this back-end roster spot.

Broncos Rumors: Thomas, Sanders, Wolfe

Here’s a quick look at the latest out of Denver:

  • As had been previously reported, the Broncos plan to retain wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, general manager John Elway told reporters, including Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (Twitter link). Specifically, Denver will exercise its $4MM option on Thomas, which will lock the 30-year-old pass-catcher into a $8.5MM base salary for the 2018 season. Sanders, meanwhile, is due an $8.15MM base salary next year. While neither receiver performed up to expectations in 2017, the Broncos likely want to keep both veterans around as they search for a new quarterback.
  • Similarly, the Broncos will bring back defensive end Derek Wolfe, who’d been mentioned as a possible cap casualty, tweets Jhabvala. Wolf, 28, signed a four-year, $36.7MM extension prior to the 2016 campaign, forgoing free agency in order to re-sign with Denver. Since that time, Wolfe has been limited by minor injuries, and played on fewer than half of the Broncos’ defensive snaps a season ago. Pro Football Focus ranked Wolfe — who managed two sacks in 2017 — as the No. 58 interior defender among 122 qualifiers. He’ll collect a base salary of $8MM and count for ~$10.769MM on Denver’s cap in 2018.
  • While Thomas, Sanders, and Wolfe appear safe, Elway refused to give the same declaration on cornerback Aqib Talib or running back C.J. Anderson, per Jhabvala (Twitter link). Denver is reportedly attempting to trade Talib (and his $11MM salary), but the club could release the veteran defensive back if no interest is found. Anderson, meanwhile, may also be cut, and the Dolphins — who signed Anderson to a restricted free agent offer sheet in 2016 — are expected to pursue him.

West Notes: Rams, 49ers, Broncos, Raiders

Two Rams defenders — linebacker Mark Barron and Kayvon Webster — recently underwent shoulder surgery, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). While Barron’s operation will allow him to be ready for training camp, Webster might not be available due to the torn Achilles which ended his 2017 campaign. Indeed, Webster had his shoulder procedure now so that he can rehabilitate both injuries at the same time, per Rapoport. Los Angeles will be counting on the 27-year-old Webster next season, as No. 1 cornerback Trumaine Johnson is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency and won’t be franchise-tagged for a third consecutive campaign. Webster, who followed Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips from Denver last offseason, is entering his contract year.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two West divisions:

  • Daniel Kilgore‘s new three-year deal with the 49ers is worth nearly $12MM and and contains $7MM in guarantees, tweets Rapoport. Kilgore, who was roughly a month away from becoming a free agent, said he accepted a team-friendly contract so San Francisco can ink quality free agents this offseason, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). The 30-year-old Kilgore was a backup or injured for much of the first five years of his career, but he’s started 29 games for the 49ers over the past two seasons. For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus ranked Kilgore as just the 23rd-best center in the league in 2017, but San Francisco is clearly higher on him than that finish would indicate.
  • The Broncos and the Seahawks are two teams who could dictate the 2018 offseason, as Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com writes. While one recent report indicated Denver wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are likely to stick on the club’s 2018 roster, other general mangers believe one or both will be available on the trade market. The Broncos are also trying to land a franchise quarterback and deal cornerback Aqib Talib, meaning they’ll be heavily involved in transactional machinations over the next few weeks. Seattle, meanwhile, is facing change at multiple areas along its vaunted defense, as injuries to Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor could cloud the team’s plans.
  • Free agent linebacker Michael Scherer recently worked out for the Raiders, reports veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer (Twitter link). Scherer, a Missouri product, appeared in 26 games for the Tigers from 2014-15 before a knee injury ended his senior season after seven contests in 2016. He’s yet to land an NFL contract, but he did audition for the Bears and Giants last year.

Broncos Unlikely To Cut Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders

Although Broncos wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have both been mentioned as potential cap casualties, the “belief” is that both are safe bets to stick on Denver’s roster given that the club is searching for a top-end quarterback this offseason, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).Demaryius Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders (Vertical)

General manager John Elway is reportedly considering any and all options to improve the Broncos’ quarterback situation over the coming months. As PFR’s Sam Robinson detailed in an extensive look at Denver’s offseason priorities, the Broncos could theoretically target a free agent solution such as Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum, or Tyrod Taylor, or perhaps look to draft a collegiate signal-caller like Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, or Josh Allen. Either way, Denver’s ability to retain its top two pass-catchers should help the club’s next quarterback.

Additionally, salary cap space shouldn’t be a problem for the Broncos in 2018, so saving money by cutting Thomas or Sanders isn’t an absolute necessity. Although Denver currently boasts only $27MM in cap room (16th in the NFL), it can easily create more space through personnel moves that don’t involve Thomas or Sanders. The Broncos could release cornerback Aqib Talib, running back C.J. Anderson, and offensive tackle Menelik Watson — each of which is a rumored transaction — and catapult their available cap space to more than $40MM.

Thomas, 30, has two years left on his current contract, and is scheduled to count for roughly $12MM in 2018. Denver could release him and save nearly $5MM, but the team would also take on $7.06MM in dead money. A post-June 1 designation would create $8.5MM in savings, but having extra room in June wouldn’t help the Broncos sign a quarterback in April. Thomas managed only 949 receiving yards last season, his lowest total since 2011, but the lack of effective quarterback play in Denver played a large part in that lack of production.

Sanders was also affected by the Broncos’ dismal efforts under center, as he posted just 555 receiving yards while appearing in 12 games. Prior to 2017, the 30-year-old Sanders had produced three straight campaigns with at least 1,000 yards through the air. If they were to release Sanders, the Broncos would pick up ~$5.563MM in cap space but incur $5.375MM in dead money.

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