It’s time for everyone to realize that you don’t need an elite wide receivers to win Super Bowls. This also means that you can’t overpay for them, either.
Currently, the five highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL are Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins and Brandin Cooks. None of those players have won a Super Bowl!
If you don’t believe my theory, let me prove it to you. There have only been two wide receivers in the history of the NFL to lead the league in receiving and win the Super Bowl in the same year – Jerry Rice and Drew Pearson. Rice did it twice in his career and Pearson only did it once.
Since the year 2000, only three wide receivers have finished the season in the top five in receiving yards and won the Super Bowl – Victor Cruz, Greg Jennings and Marvin Harrison. Here’s the catch, Cruz only had four catches for 25 yards in Super Bowl XLVI. Jennings only had four catches for 64 yards the year before in Super Bowl XLV. And in Super Bowl XLI, Harrison only had five catches for 59 yards. None of those guys had elite Super Bowl games.
Here are the rest of the No. 1 receiving leaders from the Super Bowl winning teams since the year 2000 and where they ranked in receiving that year starting with the most recent champion.
2018: Julian Edelman: 28th in receiving
2017: Alshon Jeffery: 34th in receiving
2016: Julian Edelman: 13th in receiving
2015: Demaryius Thomas: 7th in receiving
2014: Julian Edelman: 25th in receiving
2013: Golden Tate: 31st in receiving
2012: Anquan Boldin: 27th in receiving
2011: Victor Cruz: 3rd in receiving
2010: Greg Jennings: 4th in receiving
2009: Marques Colston: 18th in receiving
2008: Hines Ward: 15th in receiving
2007: Plaxico Burress: 21st in receiving
2006: Marvin Harrison: 2nd in receiving
2005: Hines Ward: 22nd in receiving
2004: David Givens: 32nd in receiving
2003: Deion Branch: 32nd in receiving
2002: Keyshawn Johnson: 16th in receiving
2001: Troy Brown: 10th in receiving
2000: Qadry Ismail: 12th in receiving
With this logic, it was a mistake for the Broncos to re-sign Emmanuel Sanders in 2016 and to pick up his option back in March for $1.5 million that is fully guaranteed. Sanders is set to have a $12.9 million cap hit for the Broncos this season.
With Sanders coming off an Achilles injury, we have yet to find out what he will look like in game action. So why pay a player that you’re uncertain about?
Denver could have saved that money and build more on the offensive line to protect Joe Flacco. Don’t forget about the struggles at the middle linebacker position and the depth at outside linebacker behind Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
You might be thinking, Emmanuel Sanders won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2015. True, but he didn’t have a single 100-yard game in the playoffs and we all know that the defense carried the team that season.
The Broncos should be focused on building their young wide receiving core with Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick. When Sanders was starting, Patrick had only 11 targets through the first 12 games of the season. When Sanders went down due to injury, Patrick’s targets nearly tripled the rest of the season and was the team’s best receiver. Even Hamilton’s numbers increased late last season.
It’s still not too late to move on from Sanders because he has no guaranteed money left on his contract this season. But if Denver decides to move on from him, they would have to eat $4.1 million in dead money. They could easily save themselves $8 million.
The formula to winning a Super Bowl is having a franchise quarterback and a top defense. Having an elite wide receiver or an overpaid wide receiver doesn’t bring a Lombardi Trophy home.