Sanders signed a three-year contract with the Broncos on Sunday worth $18 million after visiting the Chiefs on Saturday, preceded by visits to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaners. An NFL Network report alleged that agent Steve Weinberg reneged on a verbal agreement with the Chiefs and then negotiated with other NFL teams, including the Broncos. However, Weinberg and Sanders say that wasn't the case, emphasizing that there was no deal, verbal or otherwise, with the Chiefs.
The press release from Weinberg's publicist also states that Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith made a last-minute pitch to try to convince Sanders to join the NFC South club prior to him reaching a deal with the Broncos.
Here's the entire press release followed by statements from Weinberg and Sanders:
"When news broke last Saturday evening that Emmanuel Sanders had reached an agreement with the Denver Broncos, the football world was taken by surprise. It was known Sanders had already visited Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, and Kansas City, and was set to visit San Francisco; however, at no time had his name been linked to the Broncos. So how exactly did Denver sweep in and sign the speedy wideout without so much as an official visit or pre-agreement physical exam, something the four other NFL teams were demanding before they would even make an offer?
"‘Unnamed’ NFL executives have accused Sanders’ agent, Steve Weinberg, of shopping Kansas City offer to other teams and failing to honor an agreement. When the reporter of the NFL.com article called Weinberg for his comments regarding a statement from a team, Weinberg told him the statement was entirely untrue. The reporter asked, which part was untrue? “All of it,” Weinberg answered. Here’s the real story and an inside look at how NFL free agency negotiations can heat up within minutes.
"When no agreement was reached during Sanders visit to Kansas City, Sanders left the Chiefs’ headquarters and headed to the airport with Chiefs employees to catch his flight to his next visit with the San Francisco 49ers. This is exactly how NFL free agency works.
"Every NFL team is aware that once a player leaves the building during a team visit, there is little chance of signing the player. In today’s digital age, once clubs learned Sanders had left the building without a deal, Sanders and agent Steve Weinberg were bombarded with calls, texts and emails from previously disclosed and undisclosed NFL teams.
"Sanders’ first call received was from Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith. Smith, who reached Sanders while he was en route to the airport, wanted to know how negotiations were going with the Chiefs. Hearing that an agreement had not been struck with Kansas City, Smith expressed his excitement by telling Sanders that the Buccaneers were eager to reopen negotiations, closing with “have your agent call us.” Sanders called Weinberg, and told him to call Tampa Bay. A few minutes later, Sanders received a second call from Tampa Bay; this time it was the Buccaneers receivers’ coach.
"Contrary to Saturday’s NFL.com report, this never was a case of Weinberg calling numerous NFL teams to “shop the Kansas City deal.” Firstly, when Sanders left the building, there was no deal — not in principle or otherwise. Second, this failure to seal the deal is what led other disclosed and undisclosed NFL teams to call Sanders and Weinberg directly, not the other way around. Weinberg did not make even one such call to “shop the deal.” Weinberg was far more concerned with Sanders making his flight to San Francisco, and told him to hurry to the airport.
"While Sanders was en route to the airport, Weinberg received a call from a Chiefs executive. Weinberg was told that if Sanders would turn the car around and return to the building, the Chiefs were prepared to improve their offer.
"At the same time, the Bucs front office was also calling Weinberg with a new offer. With two new offers in hand, and still no offer from the 49ers, Sanders told Weinberg that for now, he had decided not to visit California. Instead, he instructed the driver to turn the car around.
"However, when Weinberg got Sanders on the phone with Chiefs executive, the X amount of money – the reason the car turned around – was no longer there. The new amount the Chiefs spoke of was $4 million less than it had been just moments ago.
"Weinberg then told Sanders to turn the car back around, get to the airport and fly to San Francisco as planned. As Weinberg continued to negotiate with Tampa, other teams were still calling. Then, out of the blue, Weinberg got a call from the Denver Broncos -- Sanders’ first choice of teams from the very beginning. The Broncos told Weinberg they had been trying to sign another receiver on Saturday, but were unsuccessful, and they heard Sanders might still be available. If so, they were prepared to offer a three-year contract in the price range Sanders was looking for. Denver asked Weinberg to hold tight while they worked on preparing a formal offer. Sanders received a text from Weinberg that Denver had just called and they would have an offer soon.
"While waiting for Denver’s offer. Weinberg continued fielding calls from numerous teams interested in Sanders. With the phones ringing constantly, Weinberg was simply unable to take every call, and planned on checking his voicemail as soon as he could. Weinberg noticed the Chiefs had called, but there was no message.
"Sanders had already missed his flight, and there was no urgency to finalize anything.
"Waiting to hear back from Denver, Weinberg e-mailed the 49ers with news Sanders won’t be making his flight as planned. He then responded to the Chiefs’ latest offer, which had been sent to him via e-mail. With his client overwhelmed, Weinberg told the Chiefs what he had been telling all the teams - he and Sanders would review their offers that evening.
"The Chiefs replied about 10 minutes later; “No need to review it, Steve. Had you picked up your phone when we were calling, you would know that we have pulled the offer.”
"Weinberg was dumbfounded. After receiving a series of angry and threatening text messages, Weinberg realized that the Chiefs had obviously misinterpreted what was happening and jumped to unreasonable conclusions. They wrongfully assumed Weinberg was not picking up his phone because he was too busy calling other teams and “shopping” their “deal”. This was most definitely not the case.
"Reports all seem to criticize Weinberg for not honoring an oral agreement that did not exist; yet it was the Chiefs who actually pulled out of the deal — before Denver ever submitted their formal offer to Sanders.
"When Weinberg did finally receive Denver’s offer Saturday evening, he contacted Sanders to go over the details. Sanders was ecstatic, as were the Broncos. With Kansas City having pulled their offer, Sanders was choosing between Tampa Bay and Denver. Signing with the team he originally wanted was a no brainer.
"Later that evening, 49ers executives were able to speak directly with Sanders to find out what had happened to cause him to not make the visit to San Francisco. At that point, the deal with Denver was complete, and Sanders told them he’d be signing with another team. Unfortunately, the 49ers were not aware how quickly everything came together, and assumed Weinberg was not being truthful with them in his earlier email. At the time Weinberg contacted them, though, he was presenting the truth.
"A short time later, Weinberg also made it a priority to reach Tampa to let them know Sanders was accepting an offer from another team.
"Today, Sanders could not be any happier. He flew to Denver Sunday morning, passed his physical and then signed his contract with the Broncos. The deal is for three years and has a total value of $18 million. Under the terms of the contract, Sanders will earn $6 million this year alone"
The press release includes the following statements from Weinberg and Sanders:
"If we reached or agreed to terms with the Chiefs, we would have signed with Kansas City and never turned back," Weinberg said. "There were absolutely no handshakes, verbal agreements or signed documents when Sanders left the Chiefs facility. Emmanuel was on his way to the airport when teams called us. We didn’t ‘shop any deals’ or ‘reach out’ to a single team. My fiduciary responsibility is to the players I represent and not to the NFL teams or their 'good ole boys' tactics.
"I am sorry if I upset any of the teams, but I know they realize my contractual and fiduciary duties are always going to benefit my client, Emmanuel Sanders. As everyone in the NFL knows, a deal is not a deal until it’s signed and approved by the league office. I'm so happy for and proud of Emmanuel. He was patient throughout the whole free-agent process and received a fair deal from one of the best teams in the entire league, a championship contender, with Hall of Fame quarterbacks running everything both on and off the field. This was his hope from the very beginning of our relationship.”
"Once ALL essential terms of my agreement with Denver were in place, Steve contacted me to confirm every important detail of the contract," Sanders said. "This never happened with any other NFL team, only the Broncos. He represented ME to the best of his abilities and I can't thank him enough for all his hard work and help achieving my dreams."
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Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun