New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders has been released by the team this morning, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. This was another cost-cutting move, as the Saints look to get below the projected salary cap before the official start of free agency on March 17th.
According to Spotrac.com, Sanders would have counted $10.5 million against the salary cap in 2021. Releasing him creates $6.5 million of cap space.
Sanders entered the league as a 3rd round choice out of SMU in the 2010 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He caught 162 passes for 2,030 yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons with the Steelers. His contributions helped Pittsburgh to a berth in Super Bowl XLV as a rookie and increased his productivity in each of his four years as a Steeler.
Sanders joined the Denver Broncos as a free agent in 2014. He spent six seasons with Denver, earning Pro Bowl honors in 2014 and 2016, and was a key piece of their Super Bowl 50 championship team. Sanders had 404 receptions for 5,361 yards and 28 touchdowns with the Broncos, including three straight seasons of over 1,000 yards receiving.
Denver traded Sanders to San Francisco at mid-season in 2019, where he helped the 49ers to a berth in Super Bowl LIV. In just nine games with San Francisco, Sanders caught 36 passes for 502 yards and three scores. He would become a free agent after the year where the Saints would have another opportunity to get him after a failed trade attempt in 2019.
New Orleans signed Sanders, who turns 34 on March 17th, expecting him to be a bona fide number two receiving threat to All-Pro WR Michael Thomas. After Thomas injured an ankle in the season opener that sidelined him for nine games and limited him all year, Sanders was thrust into the role of top wideout.
Once acclimated to the offense, Sanders showed that he still possessed deep speed to go along with precise route running skills. He finished second on the team with 61 receptions for 726 yards and 5 touchdowns. Sanders also served as a mentor to young wideouts Deonte Harris and Marquez Callaway, who will now play bigger roles alongside Michael Thomas in 2021.