Emmanuel Sanders has traveled all over the continental U.S. to play football for different NFL teams. His career started out in Pittsburgh — where he played for the Steelers from 2010-2013. After that, he came to Denver, and played there from 2014-2019. In the middle of the last NFL season (2019), Sanders was traded to San Francisco and ended up playing for the 49ers the rest of the season. Then, just a few days ago, Sanders announced his decision to join the New Orleans Saints in free agency on a two-year deal. This is a big win for New Orleans.
The combination of Emmanuel Sanders and Michael Thomas at the receiver positions could very well be second-to-none in the NFL. On top of his nine touchdowns last season, Thomas had 149 receptions for 1,725 yards and averaged 11.6 yards a catch. Emmanuel Sanders has sort of, in a sense, a different type of reliability than Thomas — being more-focused on consistency, rather than yardage. Out of 72 targets that were catchable, Sanders only dropped one pass last season. In the same year, he averaged 3 catches and 44 yards a game for the Niners. Ironically, when Sanders played the Saints last season, he recorded 7 catches for a total of 157 receiving yards and a touchdown. That must have not been easy for the Saints to forget!
In recent years, the Saints have been extremely close to making the Super Bowl almost every season. Their talent can be traced to the unstoppable force of offense that they have adopted from Drew Brees at quarterback, Michael Thomas at wide receiver, and Alvin Kamara at running back. Adding Sanders only makes the probability for the Saints to make the Super Bowl this year increase to dramatic levels, despite Tom Brady moving to Tampa Bay (which for frame of reference, is in the NFC South as well). If Sanders does make it to the Super Bowl this year, it will mark the first time someone has been to a Super Bowl with four different teams: Super Bowl XLV with the Steelers, Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos, and Super Bowl LIV with the 49ers, and hypothetically Super Bowl LV with the Saints
Emmanuel Sanders had multiple options for what destination he wanted to go to in free agency, but his decision to go to New Orleans was ultimately made because of his grandma. In an interview of Sanders with Katherine Terrell of the Athletic, Sanders explained the whole story:
“One of the first people I called was my grandma. Because she called me, her and my aunt were on the phone when free agency started, and she said, ‘We’re praying you go to New Orleans!’ The Texans, they had an opportunity and needed a receiver, the Cowboys needed one, but my grandma was talking about New Orleans because she loves that team. She loves Drew Brees, she loves Sean Payton, she loves the offense and she wanted to watch me play. When I called her and told her she was so excited about it. Not only that, she’s excited because literally they can drive to the game if they wanted. My family, I don’t know how far of a distance it is, but I know last year when (the 49ers beat the Saints in New Orleans in Week 14) I had like 15 family members drive up, so it can’t be that long of a drive. So that’s pretty cool to be back down south and be close to my family as well.”Emmanuel Sanders told Katherine Terrell of the Athletic
This is a really neat opportunity for Sanders and the Saints. Sanders wins by joining a winning team and being around family, and New Orleans gets another great receiver out of the deal. After the 2021-2022 NFL season ends it wouldn’t surprise me if the Saints sign Sanders to a longer deal that gives him the opportunity to finish his career in black and gold.