Former Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders calls it a career

Sep 7, 2022, 9:22 AM

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 17: Emmanuel Sanders #10 of the Denver Broncos runs onto the field during play...

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Nearly three years after the Broncos traded Emmanuel Sanders at midseason, the former Pro Bowl wide receiver will hang up his cleats.

Sanders announced his retirement in a video posted on the Broncos’ social-media channels Wednesday morning. He became the second key member of the Super Bowl 50 team to announce his retirement in the last six weeks; defensive end Derek Wolfe did so last month.

“For me, I feel like it’s the right time for me. Twelve years, I walk away from the game healthy,” Sanders said. “I’ve had a great career. I’ve played in a lot of great games.”

Most of those great games came during the five-and-a-half seasons he spent with the Broncos. He joined the team as an unrestricted free agent in March 2014. Denver signed him to replace Eric Decker, who jumped to the New York Jets days earlier. But Sanders ended up carving his own niche, surpassing the accomplishments of the man he replaced in the lineup.

Previously a No. 3 receiver with the Steelers, Sanders exploded with Peyton Manning slinging him passes. He racked up 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns on 101 receptions. It was the first of three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, the last of which came with Trevor Siemian throwing him passes.

But as the quarterback play declined, so too did Sanders’ numbers and frustration. By Week 3 of the 2019 season, with the Broncos winless, rudderless and on their fifth of 11 post-Manning starting quarterbacks, he described the frustration of the post-Super Bowl 50 years better than anyone else had to that point.

“Obviously the past three years — it’s been tough. Trying to get it right. We sit at 0-3, living in a world of suck,” Sanders said in the Lambeau Field locker room on a damp September afternoon after the Broncos’ seventh consecutive loss.

It was actually then-coach Vic Fangio who first said “world of suck,” using those words to his team. But the words struck a poignant tone coming from Sanders. After all,  he’d seen the highs — and he’d had trouble coping with the lows. And a month later, the Broncos traded him to San Francisco, freeing him from the vortex of irrelevancy that would continue to define the team until its March 2022 trade for Russell Wilson.

Meanwhile, Sanders went from contender to contender. After a half-season with the 49ers that saw him nearly catch a game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl LIV that was barely overthrown, he jumped aboard the Saints for the 2020 season and the Bills the following year. Both clubs lost in the divisional round.

Sanders went unsigned this offseason, waiting for the perfect scenario. It never came. And so, with a Super Bowl 50 ring and a career that saw him catch passes from one quarterback in the Hall of Fame and potentially three more who will get there, he called it a day,

“I just feel like it’s my time,” Sanders said. “Now I can go and run routes with my son, play basketball with my son, hang out with my kids, enjoy my life.”


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