The New Orleans Saints entered the offseason with a short list of needs. After all, this is a team that went 13-3, boasted the No. 3 scoring offense and held opponents to just over 21 points per game. But with Drew Brees back and Malcolm Jenkins returning home, the Saints added a significant piece to their offense late Friday night by signing Emmanuel Sanders.
Arguably the top receiver left on the free-agent market, the veteran joins forces with one of the NFL’s best offenses. His addition will provide a big boost to a passing game that became over reliant on 2019 Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas. Signing Sanders shows the Saints are all-in on 2020.
Emmanuel Sanders can make up to $19 million with Saints
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Sanders’ two-year contract comes in at $16 million. However, there are escalators and incentives that could raise the value to $19 million. That’s a fair contract for a player of Sanders’ caliber. The 2010 third-round pick just turned 33, so he certainly is on the back end of his career. But considering that Amari Cooper’s new deal has an average annual value of $20 million, it looks like a bargain for the Saints.
Sanders began his career in Pittsburgh, where he grew into a valuable contributor. He totaled 161 catches in 56 games with the Steelers before signing a three-year, $15 million deal with the Denver Broncos. Sanders teamed up with Demaryius Thomas to form one of the NFL’s top receiver duos. With an aging Peyton Manning at the helm, the Broncos won the Super Bowl in Sanders’ first season.
The durable wideout posted three straight 1,000-yard seasons with the Broncos before injuries took a toll. Sanders missed four games in 2017 and 2018 and was moved at the trade deadline last year. He caught 36 passes for 502 yards for the San Francisco 49ers.
Emmanuel Sanders fills major hole in Saints offense
While Sanders won’t be confused for a No. 1 wideout, he should fill a critical void in an otherwise dominant offense. The Saints boast an array of weapons, including Thomas, running back Alvin Kamara and tight end Jared Cook. That trio ranks among the best in the league, but the wide receiver position needed help.
New Orleans relied heavily on Thomas to move the chains. And while there’s no denying his dominance, the Saints experienced some trouble moving the ball when having to rely on secondary targets. Thomas hauled in an NFL-record 149 passes in 2019. However, Ted Ginn ranked second among Saints wide receivers with just 30 catches.
With Sanders in the mix, the Saints added one of the NFL’s most consistent receivers. The shifty, sure-handed receiver has posted at least 555 yards in eight consecutive seasons and should have no trouble getting one-on-one matchups given the Saints’ other stars on offense. That could spell danger for the rest of the NFC South.
Saints loading up for Super Bowl run
At first glance, it’s hard not to like the Saints’ Super Bowl chances. Convincing Brees to put off retirement was the first major domino. Bringing back Andrus Peat on a five-year deal also helped. Signing Sanders was the icing on the cake.
New Orleans has no discernible holes on the offensive side of the ball. They bring back the best receiver in football in Thomas, a dynamic do-it-all weapon in Kamara and an athletic tight end in Cook. Up front, there may not be a better starting five in the NFL. Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk form a Pro Bowl tackle duo, and the interior is not far behind.
Sanders should be an immediate starter in the slot, and he still has the versatility to line up on the perimeter. Expect him to take a lot of pressure off of Thomas and become a security outlet for Brees. And if all goes according to plan, the Sanders signing should put the Saints on a path to Super Bowl LV.