Emmanuel Sanders is about to turn 35 years old on March 17, but based on his on-field performance during the 2021 season with the Buffalo Bills—42 receptions for 626 yards with four touchdowns—Sanders can still play in the NFL.
Sanders and the Bills saw their season come to an end in heartbreaking fashion in the AFC Divisional Round, falling 42-36 to their rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs in what could have been both Sanders’ last game with the Bills and last game in the NFL.
During an appearance on the NFL Network’s “Super Bowl LIVE,” leading up to the Super Bowl, Sanders hinted that he might hang up his cleats after a decorated 12-year career to spend more time with his family.
“Right now, I’m in a position and we’ve all been there. I’m the oldest wide receiver in the league and I have a son about to be eight on Super Bowl Sunday. I got some decisions I have to make within myself if I want to still continue to play. I’m missing out on my son’s games and I’m moving my family to these cities back and forth. I got a lot of stuff that I got to reconsider, but if I did, I think I probably would go back to Buffalo to run it back,” Sanders said.
Sanders signed a one-year, $6 million deal as a free agent to come to the Bills during the 2021 offseason. In his one year with Buffalo, Sanders demonstrated that he is still a reliable pass catcher and target for quarterback Josh Allen. Sanders, an unrestricted free agent, appeared in 747 offensive snaps opposite Pro Bowler Stefon Diggs as Buffalo’s WR2, setting a new career-high in yards per reception (14.9).
After the demoralizing loss in Kansas City, Sanders said Allen approached him with an enticing offer for the 2022 season.
“After the [playoff loss] versus the Chiefs, you know, [quarterback] Josh Allen was like, ‘hey, let’s run it back.’ And I was like, ‘man, give me some time to reflect and see how I feel’,” said Sanders.
Last offseason, Sanders said he signed with Buffalo because he wanted to win a second Super Bowl (he was a member of the Denver Broncos who earned a win in Super Bowl 50 during the 2015 season).
If Sanders chooses to prioritize winning that second Super Bowl, returning to Buffalo on a similar one-year deal would certainly make sense, as the Bills are listed with the second-best odds to win it all in 2022.
If Sanders decides to retire, the Bills could elevate third-year pro Gabriel Davis to the No. 2 WR role, or general manager Brandon Beane could turn to free agency to find a similar vet with some speed like Sanders, or he could use one of Buffalo’s nine draft picks on a wideout.
Sanders, who is currently Buffalo’s oldest player, needs 755 more receiving yards to eclipse 10,000 receiving yards for his career. He has caught 704 passes for 9,245 yards with 51 touchdowns during a 12-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2010-2013), Broncos (2014-2019), San Francisco 49ers (2019), New Orleans Saints (2020), and Bills (2021).
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