Former Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders has announced his retirement from the NFL.
“After 12 years in the NFL, three Super Bowl appearances, two Pro Bowls, one Super Bowl win, I’m ending my career as a Super Bowl champion. It’s been a great ride,” Sanders said in his retirement video from the Broncos.
“For me I felt like it was the right time, 12 years, I walk away from the game healthy.” Sanders added, “I’ve played in a lot of great games, I just feel like it’s my time. Now I can go run routes with my son and play basketball with my son, hang out with my kids and enjoy my life.”
James Palmer of The NFL Network had a pretty good idea that Sanders was going to call it a career.
While Playing in Denver
Sanders began his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers after being drafted in the third-round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Only starting in just 18 games in three seasons, Pittsburgh would allow Sanders to become a free agent in which he then signed with the Denver Broncos in 2014.
“To play with Peyton Manning, it’s like wide receiver heaven,” Sanders said in his introductory press conference after signing a three-year deal with the Broncos.
In his first season in Denver, Sanders started in all 16 regular season games and caught 101 passes from Manning. Sanders would total up his first 1,000-yard season with 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns.
The following season, 2015, Sanders caught 76 passes between both Manning and Brock Osweiler and still went for 1,135 yards and six touchdowns.
As the Broncos held onto the first-seed in the playoffs, Denver would host the Steelers and Patriots before taking on the Panthers in Super Bowl 50. During those playoffs, Sanders became the top target for Manning as the former SMU receiver totaled up 230 yards on 16 catches.
“One of my favorite times in that 2015 run was really the confetti with me and DT [Demaryius Thomas]. I was like man we got to go play in the confetti.” Sanders added, “We just both dove into the confetti after beating the Patriots going to the Super Bowl.”
In Super Bowl 50, Sanders led the team in receiving catching eight passes for 83 yards. Because Denver relied so much on their defense in that game, Manning just needed Sanders to make plays at the right time to keep the clock moving as well as the chains. The Broncos would defeat the Panthers 24-10 and bring home their third Lombardi Trophy.
After Manning retired after 18 years, Denver rolled with Trevor Siemian in 2016 along with two starts by rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch. That didn’t slow down Sanders from having his third straight 1,000-yard season. Denver would barely miss the playoffs with a 9-7 overall record.
In 2017, Denver’s quarterback issues continued and their Super Bowl winning head coach stepped away from the game. With Vance Joseph as the head coach and Mike McCoy as the offensive coordinator, Sanders had his worst season as a Bronco. While battling an ankle injury most of the season, Sanders would tally up just 555 yards and two touchdowns.
With Case Keenum as the starting quarterback in 2018, Sanders opened the season catching 10 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks. Averaging 72.3 yards per game, Sanders was well on his way to another 1,000-yard season before he tore his Achilles in practice during week 14 of the season.
The injury would end his season with 868 yards receiving and four touchdowns.
The Pro Bowl receiver would return just in time to start the 2019 season with the Broncos playing in just seven games before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers.
“It was just a great ride, the best years of my career by far,” Sanders mentioned when talking about his time in Denver.
For the Broncos, Sanders caught 404 passes for 5,361 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Sanders’ Career After Denver
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo needed another weapon to throw to, so general manager John Lynch made the trade for Sanders and he became the perfect option. Catching three touchdowns in the regular season and 502 yards, the 49ers would head into the playoffs contending for a Super Bowl.
The following season, Sanders signed a two-year deal with another Super Bowl contending team, the New Orleans Saints. Once again Sanders didn’t reach the 1,000-yard mark, but he still piled up over 700 yards and five touchdowns for future hall of fame quarterback Drew Brees.
The Saints would make it to the playoffs, but were knocked out by the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In the offseason, Sanders was released by New Orleans, but he found a new home the next day. Once again, Sanders signed with a Super Bowl contender, the Buffalo Bills.
Going for over 600 yards receiving and four touchdowns, Sanders and the Bills entered the postseason with a really good shot at appearing in the Super Bowl. Instead, things took a bad turn.
Buffalo would take a three-point lead with just 13 seconds left against the Chiefs in the divisional-round of the playoffs. Patrick Mahomes completed two passes to put his team into field goal range with three seconds left. Kansas City would force overtime and then drive right down the field and win the game with a touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce.
This would be Sanders’ final game as a player in the NFL. The former wide receiver would finish his career with 704 catches for 9,245 yards and 51 touchdowns.
“I gave it my all. Every single rep, every single play, I tried to go 100 percent as hard as I can. And that’s why I can hang my hat and say I gave the game everything I had and the game gave it back to me,” Sanders said after he announced that he will retire as a Bronco.