ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With a job as a television analyst waiting and a desire to move on to the next stage of his life, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, 35, announced his retirement from the NFL on Wednesday.
Sanders, who spent most of six of his 12 NFL seasons in Denver, was in the Broncos‘ complex with his family to make the announcement. He closed out his career with 13 starts with the Buffalo Bills last season.
A third-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2010 draft, Sanders finished his career with 704 receptions, 9,245 yards and 51 touchdowns. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection, played in three Super Bowls and was part of the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 winning team.
“I’m proud to stand up here and tell you … that I chased down this dream and it was a hell of a ride,” Sanders said.
Sanders said he “had a couple teams reach out” to play this season but ultimately said his long-term health considerations, as well as the death of longtime friend Demaryius Thomas in December, factored into his decision. Sanders said he wasn’t ready to make a formal announcement Wednesday about his immediate future but added he has agreed to a deal to be a television analyst.
“Game of football is tough on the body, and I lost a close friend [in Thomas],” Sanders said. “… I had a heck of a career. I’ve been to three Super Bowls. For me, what else do I have to prove?”
All three of Sanders’ 1,000-yard seasons came with the Broncos, two with Peyton Manning at quarterback. Sanders was part of the Broncos’ 2014 free-agency binge that also included linebacker DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward.
At the time, Sanders called Denver “wide receiver heaven” because of Manning’s arrival in 2012. On Wednesday, Sanders recounted just how close he was to signing with the Kansas City Chiefs instead of Denver in 2014 — he was in the Chiefs’ complex when then-Broncos general manager John Elway called — and not playing with Manning.
“I wanted to sign three years [in Kansas City], and they wanted me to sign four,” Sanders said. “… I get the call, in the facility, that I can go to Denver … and I remember telling [the Chiefs] I kind of want to go back to my hotel and figure out the situation. … I was just trying to get out there so I could celebrate that I’m about to go play with Peyton.”
The Broncos traded Sanders to the San Francisco 49ers after seven games in the 2019 season, the same year he had characterized the struggles of the post-Manning Broncos as “living in a world of suck.” Sanders then played 2020 with the New Orleans Saints before he had 42 receptions for 626 yards and four touchdowns for the Bills last season.