ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Emmanuel Sanders’ production will be missed in Denver. His presence, maybe not.
“It’s what was best for Emmanuel and it’s what was best for the team,” Miller said. “We’ve been going through a tough patch here. We just want to get it right. We want people that want to get it right with us. We want people that want to be Broncos.
“We have a really good roster of young players. We get (OLB Bradley) Chubb back next year. We’re going to get it right and we want people that want to get it right with us.”
Sanders asked for a trade earlier this month, and general manager John Elway granted his request Tuesday when he acquired 2020 third- and fourth-round draft picks for the 32-year-old receiver and a fifth-round draft pick next year.
While trading away a player who no longer wanted to be in Denver could be good for the locker room, the Broncos will miss him on the football field based on how they fared without him over the last few seasons.
Since Sanders’ arrival as one of Elway’s best class of free agents in 2014, the Broncos have played nine games without him due to injury.
They won the first one, in 2015 at Chicago, in Brock Osweiler’s first NFL start. Sanders returned the following week and helped the Broncos continue on their path to a win in the Super Bowl.
He missed four games each in 2017 and 2018 and the Broncos went 0-8 in those games — they were 11-13 with him in the lineup.
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In 2017, he missed two games in October, a 21-0 loss to the Chargers in Los Angeles and a 29-19 loss at Kansas City. He also missed the final two games of the season, a 27-11 loss at Washington and a 27-24 loss to the Chiefs at home.
Last year, the Broncos were 6-6 and still in the playoff picture when he tore an Achilles tendon in practice Dec. 4. They lost their final four games, 20-14 at San Francisco, 17-16 to Cleveland, 27-14 at Oakland and 23-9 to the Chargers, leading to another change of coaches and quarterbacks.
Unlike Miller, offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello was effusive in his praise of Sanders this week, saying, “I had a great talk with him when he left here. I’m excited for him and his new opportunity and I appreciate the relationship and everything he was. Like I said a couple of times, he was a warrior, he was a pro and he worked his butt off. It’s just kind of where we’re at and … he’s a great one and he’s going to help the Niners greatly.”
Elway hinted that he’d soured on Sanders after he left a 16-0 win over Tennessee at halftime — when he had just one catch for zero yards — with what was described as a knee injury, but Scangarello said he never clashed with the 10th-year pro.
“Not at all. Honestly, Emmanuel was a pro and I appreciate him. He was a great player in this league and an important part of it,” Scangarello said. “We’re just a young team and he’s a veteran that wants to win. He’s competitive by nature and that’s what you’ll love about him and that’s what has gotten him to where he’s at. I’m happy for him, he’s with my guys that I love to death and that outside of this building, I want to see win every week. He’s going to help them win a lot of games and I’m happy for him and them. It’s just part of the business.”
Elway said everyone on offense will have to step up without Sanders, and the Broncos are especially counting on rookie tight end Noah Fant, who’s suffering through the normal rookie growing pains, and second-year receiver DaeSean Hamilton to ease top receiver Courtland Sutton’s load beginning Sunday at Indianapolis (4-2).
Fant was held out of Friday’s practice after sustaining an odd injury Thursday. He said he suffered a cut on one of his feet while removing tape from his ankles. He said the cut won’t sideline him Sunday.