Denver Broncos: Emmanuel Sanders deal wraps up big offseason

Aug 27, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) signs autographs for fans prior to the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 27, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) signs autographs for fans prior to the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Denver Broncos announced they have re-signed WR Emmanuel Sanders, a move that caps off a phenomenal offseason by John Elway and company…

The Super Bowl afterparty didn’t last overly long for the Denver Broncos’ front office, who faced the daunting task of building a repeat champion.

John Elway signed Emmanuel Sanders to a three-year contract extension on the eve of the team’s season opener against the Carolina Panthers, and truly capped off what has been a great offseason despite what many National football pundits have claimed.

It all started with the retirement of quarterback Peyton Manning, which was quickly followed by the departure of backup Brock Osweiler. Osweiler leaving was merely a piece of a mass exodus out of Denver.

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Star defensive lineman Malik Jackson and linebacker Danny Trevathan bolted for opportunities elsewhere. Offensive tackle Ryan Clady was traded to the Jets, while starters Ryan Harris and Evan Mathis bolted for the Steelers and Cardinals respectively. Tyler Polumbus retired.

Tight end Vernon Davis, who was acquired by the Broncos in a trade with the 49ers, signed on with the Washington Redskins. Fellow tight end and postseason hero Owen Daniels was let go, and hasn’t resurfaced elsewhere.

Special teams captain David Bruton signed on with the Redskins as well, and ultimately, players like leading rusher Ronnie Hillman and long-time punter Britton Colquitt were let go.

Like I said at the outset — it was a mass exodus.

But slowly and surely, John Elway began re-constructing the roster. He said after Brock Osweiler left that he wanted players on the team who wanted to be Denver Broncos, and he started to make that happen.

Free agency opened with the signing of Donald Stephenson, who has immediately been a great fit on the offensive line at right tackle.

Russell Okung signed on to be the Broncos’ left tackle after Stephenson signed up to man the right side, and Okung’s leadership and toughness has been evident immediately. Even the day he signed his contract, Okung accepted $0 in guaranteed cash, something that many criticized him for. Okung decided to approach free agency representing himself, which was a major risk, but he felt comfortable with the terms he agreed to.

And as it turns out, betting on himself has started to pay dividends…

While upgrading the offensive line, the Broncos had some major decisions to make on the defensive side of the football with Malik Jackson departed to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jackson quipped at one point that he didn’t know what the Broncos were doing, letting go of all of these players who were on the roster for the Super Bowl run.

“I think the Broncos are kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Jackson said. “They could have gotten me done, they could have got Danny done, the could have got Brock done for (next) to nothing and now we’ve all branched out…I don’t know what they’re doing. I know they let go a lot of key players but I know that defense is still going to be stout and I can’t wait to see them in the season when they come here.”

The truth of the matter is, these were all very calculated moves by John Elway and the front office. The Broncos let go of Malik Jackson, and replaced him by signing veteran Jared Crick, another young player who is now starting after the injury that sent Vance Walker to injured reserve. They also spent a second round draft pick on Adam Gotsis, who is very raw but has a lot of physical talent.

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  • The Broncos replaced Danny Trevathan with in-house options Todd Davis, Corey Nelson, and Zaire Anderson. They also made a move to re-sign linebacker Brandon Marshall to even more guaranteed money than Danny Trevathan made on the open market.

    One move that also gets overlooked is the move to re-structure star pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, who was coming off of a huge postseason and his first Super Bowl title. Ware saw the opportunity to continue winning in Denver, and accepted a pay reduction and some performance incentives.

    While Ware took a pay cut, Von Miller got himself a raise. Miller signed the richest deal for a defensive player in the history of the NFL, with $70 million in guaranteed cash.

    The re-signing of Miller seems excessive, but for this team to have success and potentially keep themselves in contention for the foreseeable future, getting him back at any cost was necessary, and the front office made it happen.

    In addition to all of the moves we’ve mentioned already, the Broncos found a way to bring back C.J. Anderson, who might be the offensive MVP. The price tag of Anderson was highly disputed, but after this season (where the Broncos are not hurting for cap space) the contract becomes much more favorable to the team.

    Anderson was very nearly a member of the Miami Dolphins, who signed him to a front-loaded contract that the Broncos shockingly matched. It originally looked like a huge mistake for John Elway and company, but Anderson’s $6 million cap hit lowers to $3 million next year and $4.5 million in the final two years.

    And finally, we had the contract extension for Emmanuel Sanders. It came on the eve of the team’s regular season opener, which is definitely out of character for Elway and this front office, but it made too much sense not to happen.

    The market for Sanders had been set, especially after the LA Rams re-signed Tavon Austin to a contract worth $24 million guaranteed. The Broncos saw that Sanders was too valuable to the future of this team to let go next offseason, and decided to top that guaranteed money now rather than waiting for the market to continue to rise.

    Sanders was rewarded with a three-year extension that will keep him a Bronco through the 2019 season, worth $27 million in guarantees. The fact that the contract is worth $33 million in total money, I’d say Sanders made off pretty well…

    So, to recap — this offseason, the Broncos accomplished the following (not in order):

    • Signed bookend tackles Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung for combined $10M guaranteed
    • Re-signed RB C.J. Anderson
    • Re-signed LB Von Miller
    • Re-signed LB Brandon Marshall
    • Re-structured LB DeMarcus Ware
    • Signed DL Jared Crick, drafted DL Adam Gotsis (2nd round)
    • Re-signed WR Emmanuel Sanders
    • Drafted QB Paxton Lynch (1st round)
    • Re-signed DL Derek Wolfe (at end of 2015 reg.season)

    We have not even mentioned the fact that prior to the offseason even starting, Elway re-signed defensive end Derek Wolfe to a long-term deal.

    This was truly a massive offseason for the Broncos, and of course, there were some big name roster casualties. Malik Jackson is certainly the biggest name, but the Broncos also lost their one-time QB of the future in Brock Osweiler and a key contributor on defense in Danny Trevathan.

    All things considered, though, the team made off pretty well. They spent just $11.63 million in guaranteed money on out-of-house unrestricted free agents. They took care of the contracts of the core pieces of the franchise. They drafted a franchise quarterback.

    This could wind up being the most critical and impressive offseason of John Elway’s tenure, and many have been watching with skeptical eyes.