Earlier today, we learned that former Indianapolis safety Bob Sanders' free agency tour kicked off in Jacksonville. Tonight, we're learning that Sanders also plans to visit Buffalo prior to the NFL Scouting Combine.
Neither development is surprising. Matt Bowen of National Football Post identified Buffalo as a possible landing spotfor the oft-injured former Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to Chicago, Dallas, Washington and Minnesota. Paul Kuharsky of ESPN maintains that all AFC South teams should explore the possibility of signing Sanders, including Houston and Tennessee as potential destinations along with Jacksonville.
It's not surprising that Sanders is generating interest on a limited market; when healthy, he's a dynamic players that some teams may view as worth the financial risk. What would be surprising, though, is if any team commits any significant investment in signing him. We've rightly held that Sanders should be signed to an incentive-based contract that essentially pays per game, rewarding Sanders for contributing, and that would seem the most obvious route to a new contract for the former Colt. It's not shocking that Sanders is generating early interest given the shallow market available, but I would be stunned if any team jumped early and made a splash by throwing major money at him. In fact, I still think it's entirely within the realm of possibility that Sanders and agent Tom Condon will learn that his market value isn't quite what they had hoped and both parties would at least be open to re-negotiation with the Colts, if that's anything Jim Irsay is interested in doing (and I'm not saying it is, it's very likely that the Colts have simply made a decision to move on.)
Still, it's a situation worth monitoring.
As for my thoughts on Sanders, if I may editorialize a bit here: I appreciate everything he did for Indianapolis. I realize I'm late to the party with my reaction to his release, but if anyone out there was really dying to know my thoughts on the situation, I truly appreciate everything Sanders was able to do while healthy and don't personally hold any grudges or have any regrets about his tenure in Indianapolis. I was absolutely a proponent of signing him to the deal he received in 2008, coming off a year in which he was named the 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, because...well, he won Defensive Player of the Year. Call me naive, perhaps, but that was enough to sway my opinion.
In retrospect, was it a wise deal? Maybe not. But any complaints I have about Sanders don't stem from the player, who just in my opinion does not have the body to be any sort of consistent presence in the NFL, or the contract he received, which was as well-earned as any Colt contract we've seen. My only complaint about Sanders stems from the team's refusal to put him on injured reserve after he ruptured his biceps tendon in the first quarter of Week One, especially because the team (essentially) later chose to IR Anthony Gonzalez instead of Sanders, when Gonzalez could very likely have returned and contributed. I don't mean to beat a dead horse and I know I've voiced my opinion on that move already, but I just wanted to make it clear that I wasn't nearly as bothered by Sanders or his contract as I was by the mismanagement of his roster spot.
Hopefully, Sanders ends up somewhere we he can be productive and ideally not face the Colts on a regular basis, but I have significant doubts in regard to his ability to ever consistently suit up again. It's a shame, too, because Sanders was the kind of player who just exploded through the television screen immediately, as soon as his first start at Kansas City in 2004 (Week Eight) -- oddly in a defensive debacle where the Colts were on the losing end of a 45-35 battle, Sanders managed nine tackles and a fumble recovery. I'll never forget his 2005 season where it was abundantly clear that the Colts had a star safety, specifically his Week 12 performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in which he simply destroyed the will of Willie Parker and the Steelers' ground game. And who could ever forget his hit on (I believe) Titans' WR Tyrone Calico that literally had the Tennessee receiver grabbing his head to make sure it was still there?
Whether Sanders ends up in Jacksonville, Buffalo or somewhere else, I appreciate what he did for the Colts and harbor no grudges over any decisions he made or anything he was or was not able to do.