Could the Patriots finally get the player they missed out on?

In 2013, the New England Patriots were close so signing an up and coming wide receiver from the Pittsburgh Steelers. In a year that saw Golden Tate join the Detroit Lions and the Patriots’ own Wes Welker join the Denver Broncos, New England wanted to add a receiver of their own: Emmanuel Sanders.

As a restricted free agent, the Patriots signed Sanders to a 1 year, $2.5 million offer sheet but were unable to obtain the receiver after Pittsburgh matched the offer and retained him for the season.

The following 2014 season, Sanders became an unrestricted free agent. Though once again, New England was unsuccessful in signing Sanders despite productive talks. Sanders ultimately signed a 3 year, $15 million deal with the Denver Broncos.

Sanders set career highs in receptions (101), yards (1,404), and touchdowns (9) in 2014 and continued to have 70+ receptions in 2015, ’16, and ’18. The Broncos has resigned Sanders to a 3 year, $33 million contract extension in 2016.

Sanders’ 2018 season was cut short after he tore his Achilles’ tendon at practice late in the season. Now, there are talks of the Broncos releasing the 31 year old receiver. Releasing Sanders’ would save Denver $10.25 million in cap space as he is the third highest paid player on the team. A trade is also possible but unlikely due to the large cap hit.

So why would the New England Patriots be a fit for Emmanuel Sanders?

The Patriots currently have four wide receivers under contract: Julian Edelman, Braxton Berrios, Darren Andrews, and Cody Hollister. So with Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Phillip Dorsett prepared to hit free agency, the team will need to retool their receiving core.

Sanders’ value will be low if he is to hit the open market. A veteran receiver coming off an injury will not command a large contract but could be the low risk-high reward move the Patriots are known for. Combined with the previously mentioned interest in Sanders in the past, New England seems like an ideal fit.

There are rumors that the New England Patriots will be aggressively shopping for a legitimate number one receiver this off season, and while Sanders does not fit that description, his addition would still be beneficial if his recovery goes well.

Six years after he was signed to an offer sheet, this may be the year Emmanuel Sanders is a New England Patriot.

Other alternatives

Many Patriots fans would love to see Golden Tate in New England, but his price tag may be too high on the open market as the top available receiver.

Adam Humphries also may fetch a higher price tag after a strong 2018 season but would be a great fit if he meets a slow market.

Jameson Crowder is a player to keep an eye on. After a disappointing year in Washington, Crowder will be a free agent at only 25 years old. Crowder could be a low cost, rebound candidate with a change of scenery.

Danny Amendola may also hit the market if the Miami Dolphins release the former Patriots receiver. A reunion is not out of the question.

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