Could this prove the time head coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots finally land their white whale?
Emmanuel Sanders — who reportedly was released by the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday, thus putting him on the open market — has long been linked to New England. But the Patriots, for lack of a better metaphor, have never been able to get the girl.
New England wanted Sanders back in 2013. The Patriots actually signed the then-Steelers wideout, a restricted free agent at the time, to an offer sheet. Pittsburgh, however, matched it and retained the then 26-year-old Sanders.
The Patriots pursued him the following year as a free agency, too. Sanders, though, ended up signing with the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos, which worked out just fine for him (three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons).
Denver traded Sanders to the San Francisco 49ers more than five seasons later ahead of the 2019 trade deadline. The Patriots opted to send a second-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for Mohamed Sanu instead — probably something they wish they did differently.
Maybe Sanders wishes differently, as well?
“If I had went to New England, I probably would’ve been a Hall of Famer,” Sanders told NBC Sports Boston before the Super Bowl LIV in Miami. “I probably wouldâve been a Hall of Famer. That was, what, my third year in the league? Tom (Brady) would’ve had, what, seven more years left? How many Super Bowls have they won from then?”
But here we are again. The Patriots need help at receiver, and Sanders, now 34, is back on the open market.
Times have changed, of course. After all, the Patriots no longer have Tom Brady behind center and just missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. In his own right, Sanders is far-removed from his 100-catch, 1,400-yard Pro Bowl season in 2014.
But could their shared interest that goes back almost a decade play a role in Sanders’ long-awaited arrival in New England? It may not be all that crazy.