Emmanuel Sanders began 2019 with the Denver Broncos, who finished the season 7-9. Now, the veteran wide receiver is playing for the NFC Championship as a crucial member of the San Francisco 49ers‘ offense.
The 49ers traded for Sanders just before the trade deadline in October, sending two 2020 draft picks (a third and fourth-rounder) to the Broncos. San Francisco is paying Sanders’ $5,970,588 contract this season, but he is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so his return to the team next year is a question mark. Sanders also turns 33 in March, so much depends on whether the 49ers want to get younger at the position or keep him around, as he’s a reliable veteran presence.
Sanders’ previous contract with the Broncos was a three-year, $33 million deal, with $26.9 million guaranteed, per Spotrac. He has been in the league nine seasons, but he clearly has some gas left in the tank. Here’s a breakdown of five possible spots we could see Sanders land in 2020, where his projected cap hit should be somewhere over $9 million.
Green Bay Packers
Sure, Aaron Rodgers has Davante Adams, who is one of the best in the NFL, but wouldn’t the Packers’ offense be even scarier with a guy like Sanders lining up on the other side? Veteran wideout A.J. Green had been linked to Green Bay as a possible trade option this season, but someone like Sanders would be a more affordable player than Green, while also providing a strong veteran presence. Don’t be surprised if Matt LaFleur and company go after Sanders this offseason.
Oakland / Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders will be moving to Vegas next season, so this wouldn’t be a huge geographical jump for Sanders. The Raiders could also use a veteran wideout to give this offense some stability. They have promising young talent at wide receiver on their roster (Zay Jones, Hunter Renfrow, Tyrell Williams) but no sage veteran to lead the group and dispel advice. The Raiders could afford Sanders, and they certainly could use him.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have arguably the top wideout in the game in Michael Thomas, but snagging a talented veteran like Sanders in free agency would make this Saints offense even deadlier. There has already been some talk about why New Orleans should pursue Sanders, with the primary point being he would add depth to the Saints’ receiving corps. Right now, Ted Ginn, who will be 35 next season, is their WR2, and adding Sanders would give their already explosive offense an instant upgrade.
Other than DeVante Parker, who is under contract with the Dolphins until 2024, Miami doesn’t have any play-making wideouts that force opposing defenses to game plan for them. Adding Sanders would change that. Also — if the Dolphins draft Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the first round as many suspect they will, they will need to surround the young QB with as much talent as possible — and adding a savvy veteran to the receiving corps wouldn’t hurt.
San Francisco 49ers
The emergence of rookie wideout Deebo Samuel shouldn’t keep the 49ers from trying to re-sign Sanders, who has developed a solid chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s already the team’s third-leading receiver, and he just got there Week 8. Sanders has three touchdowns and 502 yards receiving in 10 games with the 49ers, and combined with Samuel and All-Pro tight end George Kittle, San Francisco will likely make every attempt to keep him there.
They may not be able to agree on terms, however, but the odds are greater the Niners release Marquise Goodwin and try to work something out with Sanders.