Emmanuel Sanders isn’t worried about contract negotiations because he knows he is going to get paid, big time. The only question is whether it will be this year with the Broncos, next year with the Broncos or next year with another team in free agency.
Sanders and Demaryius Thomas have been one of, if not the best, wide receiver duos in the NFL since Sanders joined the Denver Broncos two years ago. One of them — Thomas — signed a lucrative deal with the Broncos in 2015 worth an average of $14 million per season, while the other — Sanders — is looking to do the same.
Although Sanders is still under contract for the 2016 season, which will pay him a total of $6.6 million, he has been in contract negotiations with the Broncos to keep him in Denver longer and, of course, pay him much more than he has made since signing with the Broncos in 2014. In 2014 Sanders agreed to join the Broncos with a three-year $15 million contract and now, according to reports, Sanders is looking to increase his salary by about two and a half times — asking for $12 million per season.
Typically, when a player is in contract negotiations with a team, it’s the main topic on their mind. For Sanders, he isn’t even concerned about it.
“I don’t think it weighs on me, I think it weighs on the people who really talk about it,” Sanders said recently during a break at the Gatorade ‘Beat the Heat’ camp at Valor Christian High School. “If I could just keep my ears closed and not listen to the noise I wouldn’t even know it was a contract year.”
Whether Sanders signs this year or next, he has proved that he is worth every penny of the $12 million that he is asking for. In 2014, Sanders ranked fifth in the league for receiving yards (1,404) and receptions (101), and 16th in receiving touchdowns. In 2015 Sanders posted another very good statistical year, ranking 15th overall in receiving yards (1,135), 27th in receptions (76) and 29th in receiving touchdowns (6), even with some of the worst (statistically speaking) quarterback tandems in the league feeding him the ball.
In order to understand how Sanders’ performance equates to monetary value, it’s best to compare the contracts of players with similar statistics.
In 2014 the average contract per year for the eight players closest to Sanders in regards to receiving yards was $11.326 million per year. (NOTE: These are the average contracts of the four players who ranked just above Sanders in terms of receiving yards and the four players who ranked just below Sanders in terms of receiving yards, not including rookies who are on fixed contracts. Calculations are included below.) In 2015, this same calculation was $11.829 million per year.
This means that for both 2014 and 2015, Sanders proved that his value was significantly more than what the Broncos were paying him — just an average of $5 million. While he can’t go back and get that money, he can certainly use that for determining his value moving forward, and it seems like he already has.
Sanders is reportedly asking the Broncos for $12 million per year and his production the past two years has been valued at over $11 million per year, thus he is asking for market value. Because Sanders is asking the Broncos for market value, it will be difficult for general manager John Elway to convince him to take less, especially with the mindset that Sanders has.
“For me it’s going to come, and if it’s meant for me, it’s meant for me, but I’m going to keep working hard,” said Sanders.
While Sanders would be open to a contract extension with the Broncos, it doesn’t seem like he is in any position to rush to a decision, especially if it isn’t a fair deal.
The 2016 NFL salary cap is set at $155.27 million. If the Broncos choose to sign Sanders to around $12 million per year, they will have a total of $26 million per year invested in two receivers, that’s 16.75 percent of the salary cap.
While the Broncos can hope that Sanders would take a hometown discount to stay with the Broncos, it seems as if he is ready to get his fair market value, even if that isn’t with the Broncos.
2015 Receiving Yards Rank – Average Annual Salary
7) Demaryius Thomas—$14M
8) A.J. Green—$15M
9) Larry Fitzgerald—$11M
10) Calvin Johnson—$16.14M
11) Mike Evans (Rookie deal)
12) Rob Gronkowski (Not a WR)
13) Jarvis Landry (Rookie deal)
14) Brandin Cooks (Rookie deal)
15) Emmanuel Sanders
16) T.Y. Hilton—$13M
17) Greg Olsen (Not a WR)
18) Jeremy Maclin—$11M
18) Delanie Walker (Not a WR)
20) Amari Cooper (Rookie deal)
21) Doug Baldwin—$4.333M
22) Sammy Watkins (Rookie Deal)
23) Gary Barnidge (Not a wide receiver)
23) Allen Hurns—$10.162M
$94.635M (total) / 8 (players) = $11.829M average
2014 Receiving Yards Rank – Average Annual Salary
1) Antonio Brown—$8.392M
2) Demaryius Thomas—$14M
3) Julio Jones—$14.251M
4) Jordy Nelson $9.762M
5) Emmanuel Sanders
6) T.Y. Hilton—$13M
7) Golden Tate—$6.2M
8) Dez Bryant—$14M
9) Jeremy Maclin—$11M
$90.605M (total) / 8 (players) =11.326M average