ENGLEWOOD - As the regular season opener ticked down to hours, Emmanuel Sanders was mulling two choices.
He could, A) Take a guaranteed $14.5 million in extra cash that Denver Broncos general manager John Elway was offering him and play the 2016 season with peace of mind. Or he could, B) Play at least 16 games, and probably more, of a contact/collision sport as a Broncos receiver known for his body-sacrificing style, while breaking in an inexperienced quarterback with an offensive system that doesn’t chuck it around like it did when he first signed with the team two years ago -- but knowing that if had one more Sanders-like season, he would make more money in six months as an unrestricted free agent.
Hmm. Roughly 27 hours before the Broncos were to play the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night, Sanders chose option A.
“I wanted to be here and I kept saying that we just have to find the right number,’’ Sanders said. “I could’ve possibly went to another team that’s pass happy, but I’m all about winning championships and I think that we’ve got the formula.
“I could have went to the open market and I could have made more money, but to play alongside Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, guys have to take, they call it the ‘hometown discount.’ At the end of the day, we’re all rocking hardware on our fingers right now and we’re chasing, trying to get two or maybe three or four so that’s what it’s about.’’
Here are the nitty gritty details of Sanders’ new contract extension, as obtained by 9News:
When negotiations started, he was looking at playing this season on a $5.6 million salary, the final year of the three-year, $15 million contract he signed with the Broncos in March, 2014.
Instead, his new three-year, $33 million extension includes a $10.75 million signing bonus. His overall contract is $38.6 million over four years.
Here’s how the Broncos will pay out his contract in terms of cash:
2016: $10.75 million signing bonus; $2.5 million salary for $13.25 million total. This is all fully guaranteed.
2017: $6.75 million salary that is fully guaranteed, plus a $100,000 working bonus that is practically guaranteed for a total payout of $6.85 million. That’s $20.1 million cinched, or $14.5 million more than the $5.6 million he would have made this season.
2018: $8.25 million salary with $6.9 million guaranteed against injury until the fifth day of the league year (or five days after free agency opens in March of 2018), at which point it becomes fully guaranteed.
2019: $10.25 million salary. Not guaranteed.
The deal is substantial on many levels, starting with the Broncos were already paying $14 million a year to their No. 1 receiver, Demaryius Thomas.
While Thomas is essentially tied for the third highest paid receiver in the game, the $20 million in full guarantee Sanders received is the most among the NFL’s No. 2 receivers.
And the $11 million average in “new money” puts Sanders in a tie for 10th as the highest-paid receiver overall.
All this for a receiver who turns 30 in March. His full guarantee was greater than the recent extensions signed by the younger receiver likes Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns and Doug Baldwin.
Thomas and Sanders are easily the highest-paid receiver duo in the NFL. Green Bay’s Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are a distant second.
It was mildly surprising the Broncos so aggressively pursued an extension with Sanders because 2 ½ years ago they did not even make an offer to No. 2 receiver and impending free agent Eric Decker, who has since been productive with the New York Jets.
One reason for the shift in organizational philosophy was back in 2014 the Broncos were uncertain how much money they would need to re-sign Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas, who eventually left for free agency and Jacksonville.
Another reason is Sanders is Elway’s kind of player. Sanders plays – and practices – with enthusiasm. He has a strong work ethic. He will lay out for balls thrown in traffic. And he’s a charismatic, likeable guy off the field.
“I’ve always told myself that if I played from my heart that the rest of it would take care of itself,’’ Sanders said. “I still play from the heart, and the money will come as long as you don’t play for the money. It shows up on tape, it shows up on tape exactly what you’re playing for so I really wasn’t focused on that, but when my agent (Todd France) reached out to me that the Broncos were interested in an extension, I was excited about that, but I knew that we do have a receiver in Demaryius Thomas who is making 14 (million), 15 (million). I knew that it was going to be tough, but they came with the right number, it was a great number and I’m excited to be here.”
Copyright 2016 KUSA