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Exploring A Possible Contract Extension For Emmanuel Sanders

With negotiations between the Broncos and Emmanuel Sanders reportedly on hold (per Mike Klis), most likely due to the real deadline for Von Miller heating up, and details of Doug Baldwin’s extension with the Seahawks now up on OTC, I figured I’d ponder a possible contract for Sanders to think about over the weekend.


When one looks at the stats for Sanders and Baldwin in 2015, you’ll see they’re very close in yards and receptions.  Baldwin had over twice as many touchdowns, but there is plenty of luck involved in that.  Add to this the fact that the second tier of wide receiver contracts is hovering right around the $10-11 million APY level, and I think it will be difficult for the Broncos to argue against the idea that Sanders should get a comparable contract to Baldwin.

However, there’s good news to be found for the Broncos in Baldwin’s new deal.  Although Baldwin’s initial guarantees were reported to be $24.25 million, we now know that only $12 million of it was guaranteed at signing.  Furthermore, before he signed his extension Baldwin was slated to earn a $4 million base salary from Seattle.  The Seahawks moved that $4 million to a roster bonus payable upon signing so Baldwin could get that money right away.  As such, that money got included in Baldwin’s total guarantees upon signing, meaning that the Seahawks in practicality only gave Baldwin $8 million in fully guaranteed money that they weren’t slated to do otherwise.

With Sanders, there’s even more promise in that regard, as he’s currently slated to earn $5.6 million in 2016.  So if you include that money as what will be guaranteed upon signing, there’s not much more that needs to be added in order for him to receive a guarantee similar to Baldwin.

The proposed contract

Year Base Salary  (Gtd.) Prorated Bonus Roster Bonus (Gtd.) Option Bonus Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
2016 $1,600,000 $3,000,000 $4,600,000 $12,000,000 ($7,400,000)
2017 $7,000,000 $2,000,000 $2,400,000 $11,400,000 $8,400,000 $3,000,000
2018 $8,600,000 $2,000,000 $2,000,000 $12,600,000 $4,000,000 $8,600,000
2019 $9,000,000 $2,000,000 $2,000,000 $13,000,000 $2,000,000 $11,000,000

This would be a three-year, $35 million deal with $12 million fully guaranteed: an $8 million signing bonus, his 2016 base salary now at $1.6 million, and a 2017 roster bonus of $2.4 million.  The reason I structure it as follows is to reduce Sanders’s 2016 cap number by $2 million, to give the Broncos breathing room for general operating costs during the season.  If you think the Broncos can find room elsewhere, such as via a Von Miller extension or by cutting/trading Britton Colquitt, feel free to move the roster bonus to 2016 and/or move some of the signing bonus money into that roster bonus.

Those full guarantees are equal to Baldwin, and the APY is slightly higher at $11.667 million (compared to $11.5 for Baldwin).  Sanders’s 2017 salary will be guaranteed for injury only, with it being fully guaranteed on the 5th day of the 2017 league year, just like Baldwin.  This allows his camp to leak to insiders upon agreement that Sanders got “$19 million guaranteed”, which equates to $6.33 million per year, beating Baldwin’s total guaranteed average of $6.0625 million.

In exchange for giving Sanders a contract comparable to Baldwin, he concedes two points.  The first is that due to being two years older, this is only a three year extension, as opposed to the four Baldwin got.  The second is that a $4 million team option is set up before the 2018 league year starts, allowing the Broncos to void his 2019 year that would turn him into a 2019 UFA eligible for the compensatory formula.  This is standard operating procedure for the Broncos, who have included such clauses with Demaryius Thomas, Derek Wolfe, and Brandon Marshall.

In the end, the Broncos only guarantee an additional $6.4 million that they wouldn’t have paid Sanders otherwise, and they also set themselves up well with flexibility beyond 2017 if Sanders starts to decline.

In my opinion, the Baldwin deal should make it easier for the Broncos to find some common ground with Sanders to get him extended.  It’s understandable that talks are on hold for now with the monstrous Miller negotiations getting close to its deadline, but once a resolution is met there I think they can get back to talking and dealing with Sanders with little fuss.