BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills reached an agreement to sign free agent receiver Emmanuel Sanders in a move on Wednesday that restores experienced depth to their potent passing attack.
The agreement is pending Sanders passing a physical, and was announced shortly after the NFL's signing period opened.
Sanders, who turned 34 on Wednesday, is an 11-year veteran preparing to join his fourth team in three years after spending last season in New Orleans. He’s an established possession receiver, and will be given the chance to replace John Brown, who was cut last week to free up salary cap space.
Sanders joins Buffalo’s Josh Allen-led passing attack, which includes All-Pro Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis. The Bills finished 13-3 and set numerous passing and scoring records in clinching their first AFC East title in 25 years, then reaching the conference championship game for the first time since the 1993 season.
Sanders went on social media to hint at his pending arrival in Buffalo on Tuesday. He used three muscle-flexing emojis in retweeting a post noting he and Beasley were college teammates at SMU. And he wrote, “Bills mafia... let’s goooooooo!” in retweeting a report he had agreed to sign with Buffalo.
Sanders had 61 catches for 726 yards and five touchdowns in his one season with the Saints last year.
After spending his first four NFL seasons in Pittsburgh, Sanders signed with Denver in 2014, where he enjoyed his best production. Sanders topped 75 catches and 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first three seasons in Denver, and was a member of the Broncos’ Super Bowl championship team in the 2015 season.
Among active receivers, Sanders ranks 10th with 662 catches, 11th with 8,619 yards, while scoring 48 touchdowns (including one rushing) in 158 games.
In other moves, the Bills retained the rights to third-year offensive lineman Ike Boettger, a restricted free agent. Boettger closed the season starting seven games at left guard.
Buffalo also freed up about $2.5 million in much-needed cap space by trading veteran tight end Lee Smith to the Atlanta Falcons for a seventh-round pick in the 2022 draft.
Buffalo’s limited room under the cap led to the team not tendering offers to its two remaining restricted free agents, cornerback Levi Wallace and punter Corey Bojorquez, who are now eligible to hit the market. The Bills already filled Bojorquez’s spot by agreeing to sign former Dolphins punter Matt Haack to a three-year contract on Tuesday.
Other Bills becoming free agents include quarterback Matt Barkley, Allen’s primary backup for the past two years, and receiver/returner Isaiah McKenzie.
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John Wawrow, The Associated Press