Now that the NFL has confirmed its salary cap figure for next season ($182.5 million), teams around the league have unsurprisingly taken the initiative to release expendable players in the name of salvaging money.
The New England Patriots are the definition of bloodthirsty vultures at this time of the offseason, so we’re fully expecting them to zero in on some of these options that could end up being a bargain.
Luckily for them, the New Orleans Saints detrimental financial situation forced their hand in releasing wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who was really a beacon of consistency last season following the injuries to quarterback Drew Brees and fellow wideout Michael Thomas.
While Sanders clearly wouldn’t solve all of the Patriots’ receiving woes, he would go a long way towards fixing the problem that has plagued their offense for multiple years now.
The Patriots should target recently-released WR Emmanuel Sanders.
"“New Orleans it’s been real,” Sanders said in an emotional Instagram post reacting to the news. “Sucks we didn’t bring a Super Bowl to the city which was the goal when I signed but it was a blessing to showcase my talents in front of you guys weekend and week out.”"
At 33 years old and having bounced around the league for the last few seasons, Sanders fits the exact profile of a player the Patriots tend to target in free agency. The former third-round pick is one of the most respected veterans out there, and his parting message to the Saints encapsulates why he’d be such a perfect match with New England.
At this stage in his career, Sanders really couldn’t care less about the numbers he posts or how many times he’s targeted per game. The two-time Pro Bowler is a team-first player in every sense of the word and holds his teammates accountable behind the scenes. If you wanted to, you really couldn’t have created a better free agent scenario for the Patriots in a laboratory.
If the Saints wanted to keep Sanders, they obviously would’ve done so. Their repugnant cap situation, which is the worst in the league by a large margin, just made it impossible for them to justify holding onto his $10 million cap hit for next season.
In 2020, Sanders ranked second on the team in targets (82), receptions (61), receiving yards (726), touchdowns (five) and catch rate (74.4%) across 14 games. In fairness to him, he would’ve ranked first in those categories had Alvin Kamara not been force-fed targets in the passing game. But Sanders’ best attributes are that he has sure hands and can get open. He’s proven to be a reliable security blanket for years now, and the Patriots will need that regardless of who is under center in 2021.
It remains to be seen if the Patriots will express interest in Sanders this offseason, but they would be doing themselves a colossal disservice by not at least having an internal conversation about him.