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New Orleans Saints grab receiver Emmanuel Sanders to help fortify offense

'They fit best with what I was looking for'

No, there's no guarantee of a Super Bowl appearance just because Emmanuel Sanders is a New Orleans Saint. But you have to notice the trend.

The 10-year veteran was a third-round draft pick by Pittsburgh in 2010, and helped the Steelers advance to the Super Bowl that season. He signed with Denver as a free agent in 2014, and helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 in 2015. In 2019, he was traded from Denver to San Francisco, and helped the 49ers advance to Super Bowl LIV.

Rightfully, there's anticipation that the receiver – who agreed to terms on a two-year deal with the Saints – will be a good fit for New Orleans as it attempts to make a run in 2020. He said he's capable of running any route, and is more than willing to be a blocker when called upon.

But for Sanders, it's a simple recipe.

"I kind of follow my heart," he said. "In this free agency process, I could have gone to four or five different teams. I don't know, I just follow my heart, where I felt like I fit best to try to attain the goal. Because the goal every year is try to win a Super Bowl and I feel like everybody, that's their goal.

"My goal is to always try to win a Super Bowl. I feel like the Saints and myself, we fit best, or they fit best with what I was looking for. It's a blessing, too, to be in a pass-happy offense and on a great team, so I'm excited about that."

Sanders, a two-time Pro Bowlers, has 104 starts in 144 regular-season games, with career numbers of 601 receptions for 7,893 yards and 42 touchdowns. He also has 18 carries for 159 yards and a touchdown, and has completed all three pass attempts for 78 yards and two touchdowns.

"This offense," Sanders said about what made New Orleans the most attractive destination. "I'm excited about playing in this offense. I'm excited about playing with (quarterback) Drew Brees, and (Coach) Sean Payton, and (receiver) Michael Thomas.

"I've got a couple of teammates from college (at SMU) that I played with as well that play for the Saints. I think just all in all, it was probably the best fit for me to be able to join those guys. I'm extremely excited about the whole process of it – when I say process, I mean to try to work our best for the team to attain something special. That's the only thing I want.

"To be in an offense like this, every receiver, they pay attention to the Saints because they know that Drew Brees is exciting to watch. This offense, they run it, they can put up 40, 50 points any time if they're running it the right way. So it's dangerous. And so, I've always enjoyed watching and I always kind of wanted to be in that system, be in a pass-happy offense. Every receiver wants to be in a pass-happy offense."

The Saints have first-hand knowledge of how much damage Sanders can create. With the 49ers last year, he was pivotal in a 48-46 victory in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome that helped the Niners claim the No. 1 seed in the NFC. In that game, Sanders caught seven passes for 157 yards and a touchdown (a 75-yarder), and threw a 35-yard touchdown pass.

"It's a lot of pressure with that, because you're not used to throwing passes," he said. "And you don't want to miss a guy that's wide open. But when you do complete it and you throw a touchdown pass, it's the best feeling ever – especially if you know it's going to be rolling on everybody's highlights. Because they're not used to receivers throwing passes, especially if you throw a dime. I'm sure at some point this season, they'll have a play where I'll be able to throw the ball. But we'll see."

Too, they'll see that Sanders ably has been able to work with Hall of Fame-level quarterbacks.

In Pittsburgh, he had Ben Roethlisberger. With Peyton Manning in Denver, he had his best statistical season: 101 catches for 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns in '14. And with last season divided between Denver and San Francisco, he still caught 66 passes for 869 yards and five touchdowns.

"Ben Roethlisberger, as a rookie, he kind of showed the way in the NFL of how to handle yourself," Sanders said. "Sometimes there were ups and downs, sometimes he was hard on me – trying to get me to do the right thing and work the right way.

"Then in '14, I went with Peyton, he kind of showed me the day-to-day of how to come in early in the morning, how to carry yourself, how to go about it, the route depths, everything. Peyton was my biggest mentor.

"And even with (San Francisco quarterback) Jimmy (Garoppolo), his energy and his work ethic, how he wants to win, he's smiling every day.

"And now I'm excited to get with Drew. I've been checking out his Instagram and seeing, he's a great father figure and he seems like this incredible dude to be around. So I'm looking forward to getting around him. He's one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. To be around somebody like that, to see how he works, see his personality and see how it all clicks – I'm not one to ask questions. I'm an observer to see how they go about their business, so I'm looking forward to seeing that."

Photos of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders throughout his NFL career.

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