10 things to know about new Bills WR Emmanuel Sanders

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Nick Wojton
·9 min read
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The Buffalo Bills signed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders as free agency opened this week. The match with the Bills and the 34-year-old is the type that’s been a long time in the making.

A former third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers back in 2010, the 5-foot-11 target replaces some of what the Bills lost recently on their roster in John Brown. Considering that, Sanders could be an important piece to the puzzle for Buffalo in 2021.

So you’ll want to know all you can about the guy.

With that, here are 10 things to know about the new Bills receiver:

Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) and Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. (NFL Photos via AP)

SMU teammates

First off, Sanders won’t be a stranger to everyone in the Bills locker room. Sanders and Cole Beasley were teammates in college back in the day. From 2008-2009, the two suited up for SMU.

Both guys were big-time contributors during those years as well. Each had more than 80 catches combined in those two seasons. Sanders had 98 total in his senior year.

After that, the Steelers picked Sanders and Beasley went undrafted in 2012 but was signed by the Dallas Cowboys.

Here’s a photo Beasley shared on his social media account on Instagram this week of the two:

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49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (Gannett photo)

Deep threat and then some

The eye test says Sanders will replace Brown in the Bills lineup as a deep-threat option to pair with Stefon Diggs and Beasley. That’s something Sanders does bring to the table. While it was awhile ago now, Sanders ran did run a 4.39 second 40-yard dash at the combine. This is something that has remained with him for his entire career, though.

Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Sanders has the fifth-most yards per target on passes that travel more than 10 yards in the air since 2018. Last season on such passes, he had 22 catches, 469 yards and three touchdowns on 30 targets.

However, Sanders can probably do a little bit more in terms of short-yardage work than Brown.

But don’t take our word for it. Previously a member of the 49ers, San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan broke down Sanders’ game in the past. What can’t he do? Not much, considering he’s thrown passes and even returned punts in his career as well.

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Interest before

Why has this move been in the making? Buffalo has approached Sanders a couple times before. Bills general manager Brandon Beane admitted that, even.

The most-recent time he nearly joined the Bills was almost a year ago to the day. Last offseason, Sanders landed with the Saints. At one point, he was talking to Beane about coming to Buffalo and said he wanted to think about it.

Beane said that wasn’t a problem, hung up the phone, and all of a sudden Diggs tweeted he wanted to leave Minnesota and a trade with the Vikings happened.

“I spoke with the Bills for a little bit,” Sanders told The Rich Eisen Show. “And I told them, ‘Let me think about the idea, give me a night.’ And 30 minutes later the Stefon Diggs deal went through and I was like, ‘OK.’”

Likes his top QBs

There’s probably two big reasons Sanders signed with the Bills: A passing offense… that’s led by a talented quarterback.

In his career, Sanders has caught passes from a ton of different guys. Sure, we’ve got Case Keenum, Joe Flacco, and even Taysom Hill… but there’s also Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees sprinkled in there. Josh Allen next in that second group?

And on the passing factor, Sanders said himself a year ago that’s the type of team he wants to play for.

“I’m excited to be there in a pass-happy offense,” Sanders said via NFL.com. “That means everything. These are the types of offenses where you really can showcase your talent.”

He also said this prior to last season via CBS Sports:

“I remember 2014 when I had the opportunity to play with Peyton Manning and be in a pass-happy offense. It was one of my best years statistically. You want to talk about going to practice knowing you’re gonna catch 10-12 balls. Going into games, knowing that you have the opportunity to catch 10 passes. Like I said in ’14, that’s wide receiver heaven. To be back in the situation with another Hall of Fame quarterback and trying to do something special and win a Super Bowl, I’m all in. Truthfully, I’m blessed to be in this position that I’m in right now.”

Bonus catch

Reportedly, Sanders signed a one-year deal with the Bills worth $6 million. Of that pay day, ESPN reports that $500,000 of it could come via incentives.

Sanders loves incentives.

Last season, he specifically made sure to get his last season. New Orleans coach Sean Payton drew up a play in Week 17 specifically for Sanders to get his.

Sanders let it be known the money was made right away:

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Per Saints Wire, that incentive came because he caught 60 passes.

Gannett photo

Watched this show battling COVID

Serious note: Sanders battled COVID-19 last season and spent time on the designation with the Saints. He recovered and aside from that, he did not miss any playing time due to injury.

Helping him get through that illness? Maybe one show you’ve watched: Schitt’s Creek.

“I started a show called ‘Schitt’s Creek’ and finished that in, like, three days,” Sanders told NOLA.com. “Thank God I had that show, because it entertained me.”

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Mahomes is the enemy

While the Bills are going to first look to lockup another AFC East title in 2021, the Kansas City Chiefs will again loom. They were the lone team that the Bills couldn’t figure out a year ago… twice.

Sanders is a two-time Super Bowl champ, but he still has aspirations for a third and he already has acknowledged just last year that the Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be in the way of that.

“I mean, he’s a special player,” Sanders explained via Chiefs Wire. “Every time you think you’ve got him, you really don’t have him and I’ve been a part of like three games like that where I’m like, yeah, we got him. And then next thing you know, he just does some spectacular stuff you’ve never seen.”

“I think just when you speak of the Chiefs, they’ve just got a legendary team right now,” Sanders added. “From Travis Kelce, a tight end, leading the league in yards from Tyreek Hill to Patrick Mahomes to the Honey Badger (Tyrann Mathieu). They have just got players upon players over there, and they play well, and they play confident, and then they’ve got Andy Reid who’s a great coach in my opinion as well. And so every week, you know that they’re going to come ready to play.”

Sanders won’t be overlooking KC.

Gannett photo

Good news for Gabe

Everyone kind of just assumes an older player will take younger guys under their wing. It’s not always the case.

But for Sanders, it’ll happen, and that’s good news for some younger wideouts the Bills have like Gabriel Davis. There’s several instances where younger players have credited Sanders with doing so.

Despite playing with the Saints in 2020, Sanders worked out with a player on one of his former teams, Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

“He just [messaged me] and said he wanted to come workout with me,” Jeudy said via Broncos Wire.

“He sent me his location and I went over there and worked out. He was picking little details of my game and seeing how I run routes and things like that.

“I was learning a little bit from him as well. It was more of a, ‘What are you doing? Let’s go workout,’ type of thing really.”

Via NOLA.com, that happened with the Saints’ youthful pieces as well.

“I’ve been preaching to them, ‘Carpe diem, seize the moment, seize the day,’” Sanders said in December.

You know Sean McDermott will love this.

Gannett photo

Change of heart on weather?

Sanders has played in cold places. He started in Pittsburgh and went to Denver. But then after going to San Francisco, he evidently did not want to play in chilly Green Bay last year, which is a reason why he ended up in New Orleans.

According to Packers Wire:

“It’s just Green Bay, that cold weather, Rich, I wasn’t trying to do it, man. To be in a dome 12 games out of the year in a pass-heavy offense or go to Green Bay? I can’t do it. I’d rather go to New Orleans. I’m from the south. My grandma is six hours away, can come to all the games. I can have my family drive up. It’s just a perfect opportunity for me.”

Welp… we’ve got some bad news for you, Manny…

Gannett photo

Has a podcast

Ready to get to know Sanders more? We’ve got a podcast for you. He actually has his own.

NFL Network analyst Nate Burelson hosts it and it gives “unfiltered access inside the lives of Jamal Adams, Eric Ebron and Emmanuel Sanders,” according to the pod’s Twitter account.

It’s called the “17 Weeks Pod.” Check it out:

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