The Pittsburgh Steelers decided early on in free agency that they were not going to overpay for Emmanuel Sanders. Despite career numbers last season, his value versus what he wanted in pay just didn’t jive with what the Steelers were willing to pay – especially with all the other needs they have/had throughout the squad. Sanders entered free agency and sat idle for the first few days. Over the weekend however, things picked up, got kind of crazy, and transformed into a situation that has now put he and his agent not in the best of light.
Free agency can be a crazy period of time in the NFL, especially now with the tampering system that can open up days before any announcements and signings can be official. The first 36 hours of free agency was insane with the amount of players being gobbled up by numerous teams that had the big cap space to negotiate overpaying and outrageous deals. Agents of players are fielding calls and emails from teams all over the league simultaneously if who they are representing is a hot commodity.
In Sanders’ case, apparently things got crazy within about an hours time. There are multiple reports out there about what really happened, and I’ll be darned if I’m going to stick with one or the other. Here’s the report from an outsiders POV – Sanders met with the Kansas City Chiefs, left with no deal, didn’t fly to San Francisco to meet with the 49′ers like he was supposed to, and ended up agreeing to make a deal with the Denver Broncos all in the span of a few short hours once leaving the KC facilities. According to the Chiefs, Sanders left with an agreement in good faith but with no deal signed. Officials from the Chiefs felt that Sanders’ agent Steve Weinberg shopped around that deal to other teams such as Tampa Bay and the Broncos. That’s a big time unsaid no no in the NFL. It’s playing dirty so to speak and it ticked off the Chiefs enough that they want to file complaint.
There is another side of the story and that comes from Weinberg himself and a blog posted by limelight-strategies.com. According to these two sources, Sanders left KC with no deal. Not even a verbal agreement. Sanders left the facilities and headed to the airport. On his way there he received calls from Lovie Smith of the Bucs. Weinberg also received a call from KC saying that the deal had changed. Weinberg told Sanders to turn around and that they would cancel his flight to San Fran. Things got confusing and crazy at that point, and (you can read the full extent of limelight’s blog) Sanders eventually turned back around to head for the airport where he would miss his flight to San Fran. During the trip back to the airport (the second time), the Broncos called Sanders and offered a deal – the team Sanders wanted to be with the entire time he was in free agency.
Sanders would eventually sign with the Broncos less than 24 hours later. Several teams feel snubbed, none more so than the Chiefs out of this whole deal. I can tell you that it has the fans of KC hot under the collar. The Broncos are already a large thorn in the side of any Chiefs fan. They are division rivals and everyone has a dart board with John Elway’s picture on it. I’m sure Sanders will not be given a warm welcome when he heads to the Chiefs this season wearing a Bronco uniform.
Did Sanders’ agent play some dirty ball? Or is KC just bitter that Denver swooped in and nabbed Sanders fair and square? You can’t really blame Sanders for what took place no matter what. An athlete’s agent holds the majority of cards when they wheel and deal with teams. If there’s any truth to Weinberg’s and limelight’s reports, it sounds like Sanders was caught in the middle. Feel bad for the guy and this situation. His agent is certainly in hot water over this, but unfortunately, Sanders is caught in the cross fire and will be looked at poorly for the turn of events.
But hey, he’s got his deal and he’s happy where he is. Isn’t that what Free Agency is all about for the players?