ENGLEWOOD — Before John Elway headed out to the golf course to take advantage of a sunny Sunday in the Rocky Mountains, the Denver Broncos general manager made yet another splash in free agency by signing wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to a three-year, $15 million contract.
The Broncos have been the league's most successful suitors so far, committing nearly $128 million to five players, including three thumpers who will reinforce a defense that was exposed in the Super Bowl: safety T.J. Ward, cornerback Aqib Talib, pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, and two receivers in Bubba Caldwell and Sanders.
"They definitely did a great job from a free-agent perspective," Sanders said. "When I saw them bring in DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward, I was like, 'They're stacking up on defense.' I knew with Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas and Wes Welker and (Bubba) Caldwell, I was like, 'I would fit with these guys really well.' When my agent, Steve Weinberg, got the call, we were definitely fist-bumping. We were hoping that the numbers matched, and they matched. So yesterday was probably one of the best days of my life."
A former Pittsburgh Steelers No. 2 receiver, Sanders can play both the slot and the outside in place of Eric Decker, who left Denver for the New York Jets.
This latest move left several teams fuming, according to NFL.com, which reported that Sanders' agent, Steve Weinberg, shopped is client around after agreeing to a deal with principle with the Kansas City Chiefs.
A call from The Associated Press to Weinberg went straight to voice mail Sunday, and that mailbox was full.
Sanders defended his agent, saying Weinberg did nothing wrong. He said he visited four teams and when he was ready to sign they reached out to all four of those teams to ask for their final offer.
"And I guess the Chiefs felt like they had a deal. But we never officially had a deal," Sanders said.
He said the fact that he was at the Chiefs' facility at the time may have made them believe they had a deal in place.
"There was no handshake. There was no kind of agreement ... we were close to a deal, but it wasn't anything official just yet," Sanders said. "In terms of shopping around, we didn't shop around. Teams were still calling. Teams were still trying to get involved. That's what happened. Steve Weinberg, he did an exceptional job in terms of the whole free-agency process. At times, I was like, 'Steve, what is going on? Am I flying East Coast or West Coast?' But I believe in him. Everything that he said was going to happen, happened. I ended up at the place that I needed to be."
Elway said this sort of thing happens this time of year.
"I will say this, we didn't know anything about it, but having been in this for the last three years, that stuff happens quite a bit, so miscommunications happens a lot of times," Elway said.
Sanders, a third-round draft pick in 2010, had 161 catches for 2,030 yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons with the Steelers. He also has 13 receptions for 172 yards in four career playoff games.
Last year, he caught a career-best 67 passes for 740 yards and six TDs, including four over the Steelers' final six games.
Although not as big as Decker, Sanders is fast and elusive — he ranked fourth in the league last year by causing opponents to miss 15 tackles.
Elway said, "I think he's going to add a lot," to Denver's high-octane offense that shattered several records last year and was the envy of many a wide receiver who marveled at the numbers Manning put up week after week.
"It was amazing and I remember sitting at my house saying, 'Man, that's what I want to be a part of someday,'" Sanders said. "It always works out as long as you work hard. They had a really good season last year and hopefully we can repeat the same things and this time finish it off."
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