NFL Free Agency: Emmanuel Sanders to hit market, here’s how other WRs that signed contracts in their 30s fared

Emmanuel Sanders has been productive as a wide receiver in his 30s, even though he thinks the league may be passing him by. While Sanders has yet to have a 1,000-yard season and make a Pro Bowl in his 30s, he was productive in 2019 with the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers. 

Sanders had 66 catches for 869 yards and five touchdowns in 2019, raising his game to another level after getting traded to San Francisco. He had 36 catches for 502 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games, helping the 49ers reach the Super Bowl. This was just 13 months after a devastating Achilles injury that Sanders somehow recovered from in eight months. 

Sanders, set to be a free agent, is looking to prove he still is a productive wide receiver in the NFL. While the 2019 season has proven such, Sanders still has his doubters, even taking to Twitter to voice his opinion on the topic:

Sanders is making his case he deserves one more big payday in free agency, and this past season has shown he should get another nice contract. While Sanders is expected to get a lucrative deal in free agency, there is risk toward signing a wide receiver in his mid- 30s. 

Here are notable free agent deals wide receivers signed in their 30s, ranking how they performed: 

7. Jerry Porter (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Porter signed a six year, $30 million deal with the Jaguars in 2008, a contract that Jacksonville would choose to regret. He had just 11 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown in his first and only season with the Jaguars, starting six games. He was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury and never played in the NFL again. 

6. Randy Moss (San Francisco 49ers)

After a year in retirement, Moss signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the 49ers at age 35. Used as a backup, Moss made an impact with 28 catches for 434 yards and three touchdowns as the 49ers reached the Super Bowl. He had seven catches for 112 yards in three playoff games.

5. Lance Alworth (Dallas Cowboys)

Alworth finished his career with the Cowboys after nine successful seasons with the San Diego Chargers. Playing with Dallas in his early 30s, Alworth had 49 catches for 682 yards and four touchdowns in his two seasons with the Cowboys, winning a Super Bowl in 1971. The Cowboys finally got over the hump thanks to Alworth, who caught a touchdown pass in Super Bowl VI.

4. Andre Rison (Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders)

Rison was a free-agent bust in Cleveland and Jacksonville, but far from it in Kansas City. Signing a two-year deal with the Chiefs, Rison had 72 catches for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns (15.2 yards per catch) at the age of 30, making the Pro Bowl. Rison then signed a four-year extension after the year, but was released by the Chiefs after the 1999 season. He signed a veteran minimum deal with the Raiders at the age of 34, he finished with 41 catches for 606 yards and six touchdowns in 2000. 

3. Wes Welker (Denver Broncos)

One of the game’s best slot receivers, Welker signed a two-year, $12 million deal with Denver at 32. Welker had 73 catches for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns as Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning set the NFL record for touchdown passes and yards in a season. Welker had 49 catches for 464 yards and two touchdowns in his second season with the Broncos, the final year of his contract. 

2. Jerry Rice (Oakland Raiders)

Rice signed with the Raiders at the age of 38, having two 1,000-yard seasons and catching a touchdown in the Super Bowl at 40 years old. Rice made the Pro Bowl in 2002 after finishing with 92 catches for 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns. He had 243 catches for 3,286 yards and 18 touchdowns in 54 games with the Raiders before being traded to the Seahawks at the age of 42. 

  1. Terrell Owens (Dallas Cowboys) 

Owens signed a three-year, $25 million contract with the Cowboys after two controversial seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. While Owens signed with the Cowboys at 33, he had three 1,000-yard seasons and led the NFL in touchdown catches (13) in 2006. A First-Team All-Pro in 2007, Owens 235 catches for 3,587 yards and 38 touchdowns in three seasons with the Cowboys, still producing at a high level at 35 years old. 

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