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James Sanders agrees to terms on 3-year deal

Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff March 1, 2009 02:50 PM

The Patriots have agreed to terms with safety James Sanders on a three-year contract.

Sanders, 25, turned down more money elsewhere to return to the Patriots.

Sanders' agent, Steve Feldman, confirmed the agreement.

"It gives him a chance to grow and become a playmaker," Feldman said. "He stays in the same system with a championship team. They know him. He knows them. It was the right fit."

Sanders, who enters his fifth NFL season, started all 14 games in which he played last year. He was credited by Patriots coaches with 66 tackles, sixth best on the team, and added one interception.

In the past, Sanders has been credited by Patriots coaches with aiding the overall communication of the secondary, as his knowledge of the overall defense is considered valuable.

He is a projected starter at safety for 2009 alongside Brandon Meriweather.

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74 comments so far...
  1. News of the day.... If Sanders can take better angles to cut down on the big plays... having him back there is good thing.

    Posted by Tim from DC March 1, 09 02:59 PM
  1. wise, safe move. he may not be the second coming of rodney harrison but at only 25 he still has lots of room to grow as well as help groom a young safety that is likely to be acquired in this years draft.

    Posted by bhall March 1, 09 03:02 PM
  1. Most comforting news of the offseason so far.

    Posted by Tom March 1, 09 03:05 PM
  1. This is a big signing that will be glossed over in the mainstream press.

    He has been a reliable starter over the past two seasons and has continued to grow. With Merriweather coming into his prime, I believe it is key to keep the consistency between these two players in the secondary. If they bring back Harrison, it will make for a nice three player rotation based on matchups.

    Posted by Jay March 1, 09 03:09 PM
  1. I'm glad that he resigned here. I still think we can upgrade over him but it will be nice to have some quality depth. He's a decent player and is a sure tackler but he too often takes terrible angles and isn't in the right position to make the plays that he could be capable of.

    Posted by Baz March 1, 09 03:09 PM
  1. A known Belichick favorite. I bet the deal is nice relative to others around the league.

    Posted by efd March 1, 09 03:14 PM
  1. Great move by the front office. Sanders is consistent and we know that he can start for us. Does that mean we don't address the safety position in the draft still? I don't know. But, nonetheless, it's a great move!

    Posted by hollywood14 March 1, 09 03:21 PM
  1. YES! i thought id come home from work and see front page of NFL.com BRONCOS SIGN PATS SAFETY SANDERS 5-YEAR DEAL 500MILL. now they got to sign heath evans back before denver gets him. while sanders had a down year he's a pretty good young safety he was great in 2007 and started to really play in 2006 where he was pretty good as well.

    Posted by Peter March 1, 09 03:35 PM
  1. Nice win-win for both sides. Pats will have a player for the next 3 years who will be 25-28 years old, at relatively cheap dollars, and because of that, a player who will continue to be hungry to improve and try to hit FA jackpot when he's still only 28.

    Posted by jerseyjuicers March 1, 09 03:35 PM
  1. Refreshing to hear he stayed rather than take more money...A true "team guy". He is very young still and is a solid safety with room to grow....Good news.

    Posted by Joe March 1, 09 03:36 PM
  1. I hope they didn't pay too much. He's too slow and out of position too often to be a cover safety, and isn't very strong around the line of scrimmage to be used in the box. He's a reasonable stopgap, but not the answer at the position. I'm hoping they re-sign Tank and give him another shot back there. Maybe Rodney will sign on for one more...

    Posted by MarkZ March 1, 09 03:44 PM
  1. Has this guy ever been credited with a pass defended? He is invisible most of the time. For a big safety, he rarely ever lays the wood on a receiver, mostly because he isn't quick enough to get into position.

    Posted by Need for Speed March 1, 09 04:06 PM
  1. I still hope we take a Safety in the 2nd round (47 most likely) as there should be some good ones available like Patrick Chung from Oregon and Rashad Johnson from Alabama. Sanders will provide depth and allow the draft pick to grow into a starter at his own pace.

    The Pats have really set themselves up to do good things in this draft with picks at 23, 34, 47 & 58 plus 2 more picks in the top 100. This should be the best Pats draft in a long time! I'm really looking forward to seeing who we get. Look for OLB to be addressed at 23 and/or 34.

    Posted by Ush March 1, 09 04:10 PM
  1. Great news, I think Sanders was our most important UFA.

    I wonder if this means the Pats wont be interested in drafting Louis Delmas out of Western Michigan?

    Posted by Paul Pedersen March 1, 09 04:10 PM
  1. overated.

    Posted by Joe March 1, 09 04:10 PM
  1. we need more than james sanders at safety. he misses tackles and seems to be around any time there is a big play by the opponents.

    Posted by steve March 1, 09 04:26 PM
  1. Nice to know its not all about money for Sanders. I hope he has a great year.

    Posted by Mike March 1, 09 04:36 PM
  1. Good deal. He has to work on some things but he has potential to grow.

    Posted by pete s March 1, 09 04:58 PM
  1. Imagine what cap space can do for you? Next on tap -- Wilfork? A free agent from another team?

    Posted by G March 1, 09 05:04 PM
  1. Pats still need to pick up a safety that can not only hit hard but tackle. Meriweather and Sanders are good but not great (yet) and we definitely need a replacement for Rodney even if he does (please do!) come back for one more year:

    Posted by ZH_Pats March 1, 09 05:17 PM
  1. Solid guy on and off the field and has some Rodney rubbing off on him as he isn't afraid to dish out a lick. No worries with he and Merriweather at safety.

    Posted by SF Fred March 1, 09 05:18 PM
  1. This is NOT a "Championship team." A contender, yes, but it's been a few years since the last win.

    Posted by Rgbyref1 March 1, 09 05:29 PM
  1. I think Sanders is a solid backup..But, not a starter on a championship defense. The way i look at it is this: Could James have started back in 2001 with Lawyer Milloy and Tebucky Jones...NO
    Could James have started with Rodney and Eugene Wilson in 2003 & 2004...No
    Have the Pats lowered their standards on defense? ..I guess that is a stupid question, going from Assante Samuel to BUMS like Fernando Bryant,Jason Webster & Delta O'Neal...I answered my own question on that one

    Posted by 0u812 March 1, 09 05:36 PM
  1. Now we can focus drafting an OLB in the first round

    Posted by Andy M March 1, 09 05:43 PM
  1. I'm glad to have him back, and think for reasonable money its good to have a system guy back there. That said he was consistent in 2007 but really took a step backwards last year. I'd still like to bring someone else in via FA or the draft depending on who's available, because I don't ever think he'll be a play maker.

    Posted by MadMikeL March 1, 09 05:50 PM
  1. great,this guy is average at best.Lets resign the guys that made up the leagues worst secondary.I cant wait to see our secondary get burned again this season.thats what the freeagency is for to upgrade,not play it safe.

    Posted by darryl March 1, 09 05:52 PM
  1. Where are the freakin upgrades!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted by Ralph March 1, 09 06:04 PM
  1. I see what you did there 0u812. You're a clever one.

    Posted by Andrew March 1, 09 06:06 PM
  1. This is what i have been saying in these posts.

    Put our money in young, fast, developing defensive players and put together a defense that will gel in 2-3 years, giving BB and TB a chance to have one final run ,together before they retire, of 2-3 Superbowl chances.

    Remember how John Elway ended his career. Brady and BB could do the same.

    Think long run Pat fans.

    Posted by pope John Paul 1 (deceased) March 1, 09 06:12 PM
  1. Who seems to think that James Sanders is anything special. He is a nice backup but im reading good deal, nice fit, a good teamate. He sucks. They are supposed to be making the defense better. NOT WORSE. I hear he's 25. so what. 25 or 32 this guy doesn't deserve a starting job anywhere. I guess this makes everyone feel good after that bogus trade they made yesterday. Gotta say this is a great way to use that 3 million that they freed up by letting Vrebel go for nothing. Come on people are you serious. Hes a true "team guy".

    Posted by Steve from worcester March 1, 09 06:14 PM
  1. Right on ou812. COuldn't have said it better.

    Posted by 5150 March 1, 09 06:22 PM
  1. Good. I like Sanders, retaining him retains speed, youth, and experience in the position, and it sounds like he took a hometown discount to work towards a big payday in 3 years. Plenty of incentive there.

    Ou812 - I would start Sanders over Jones and Wilson, yes.

    Posted by Odumba the Clown March 1, 09 06:27 PM
  1. Sanders made the right move. Lots of players have taken a few more taxable dollars, only to fizzle and fade. If the Pats take a championship or two in the next three years, he'll be much more marketable; New England will appreciate him that much more. Good move for both parties.

    Posted by BTownExpress March 1, 09 06:37 PM
  1. I applaud Sanders and his agent for taking less money to stay in a system that ultimately gives him the best chance to succeed. I think they are both aware that Sanders is a very mediocre player would not be starting elsewhere, at least not for more than one season.

    Posted by Adam March 1, 09 06:38 PM

    Posted by jd March 1, 09 06:45 PM
  1. Wow-suprised-thought we migth replace the young guy with a ripe aging veteran like Ronnie Lott or Steve Atwater. Good thing we're looking at Shawn Springs at CB-i mean-he's only 34. Oh-and that trade with Cassel and Vrabel for a 2nd rd pick-great value. Hopefully we can replace Vrabel with Dick Butkis or someone a little older.

    Posted by Pats guy March 1, 09 06:46 PM
  1. You all should take glee in the fact that it was Mangini and Cleveland that was the higher offer.

    Posted by 64champs March 1, 09 06:48 PM
  1. To Rgbyref1:
    Anytime you have guys like Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Tedy Bruschi on your team, you are definitely a Championship Team.

    Posted by Joe G. March 1, 09 07:07 PM
  1. I love the way James Sanders hits people. He may not be a superstar in the secondary but I love the way he hits. As for Merriweather, I'm still not sold on him. I've watched every Pats game in the past three years (thanks to DirecTV) and I think Merriweather is one of the team's most disappointing draft picks over the past few years -- especially given that he was a first-rounder.

    Posted by John McLean March 1, 09 07:14 PM
  1. Now if it was "Bob" Sanders we'd have something.

    Posted by Jim L. March 1, 09 07:38 PM
  1. With the development of Brandon Merriweather as a ball hawk we should be able to draft a THUMPER type safety to go along with James Sanders in a 3 Safety team rotation. (Meriweather: 83 Tackles, 2 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles, and 4 Interceptions) Patrick Chung, Louis Delmas, or Emanuel Cook would all be great additions to the Pats secondary. and with three 2nd rounders I'm sure one of them will be running around our secondary next year. And a lot of people are saying stuff like "Oh the Pats are losing their standards on defense by hvaing bad players" they are not bad players they are young players. And that is what unfortunately that is what happens. PLayers get old and teams have to restock with youth. The pats are doing a good job of dong that in finding players like Mayo, Merwaether, Sanders, Wheatly, Wilhite, etc. But this dfart will be much better. They have 3 2nd round picks, and 2 3rd round picks giving them the ability to move up if they want and also have several players who can start this or nect year for them. Players like Bruschi and Vrabel and asante samuel were all taken in the third and fourth rounds. Think of what they could get in this draft...

    Posted by mike March 1, 09 07:40 PM
  1. The problem with this defense is not the DB but the DL - no QB pressure!!

    Posted by ghost March 1, 09 07:52 PM
  1. jd youre exactly right _ the secondary has looked even worse because of a NONEXISTENT pass rush the last two years. The D can improve a lot with Sanders returning and working alongside Meriweather and Harrison (IF he returns) but the Pats need an impact LB or two (see the recent successes of Baltimore, Pitt, Indy). This team went 11-5 with that defense and no Brady--why doubt BB now?

    Posted by VanHagarwasawful March 1, 09 08:03 PM
    Posted by Gregg Rosenthal : Sunday, March 1, 2009 3:36 PM
    Now that the Patriots have cleared Matt Cassel's cap number, what will they do with it? Some of the money will surely go to their secondary. They re-signed solid young safety James Sanders to a three-year deal Sunday, and have met with cornerbacks Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs.

    But New England may still have a larger move up their sleeve. They have four first-day draft picks to work with, which gives them flexibility for a possible trade.

    Put this post under logical but wild speculation, but Panthers beat writer Darin Gantt thinks that trade could be for Julius Peppers. This has been a whisper on many lips for weeks.

    Peppers wants to play for a 3-4 team, and said he had a few NFC teams and one AFC team in mind. Many believe the AFC squad was New England. Peppers' versatility would be an absolute perfect fit for Bill Belichick's defense. The one-time coach of Lawrence Taylor would know how to maximize Peppers' unique skill set.

    The Patriots were hamstrung by Matt Cassel's cap number, and the Panthers are in the same boat with Peppers. New England may be the only team with the ammunition to pry Peppers away.

    Posted by Patsfan in VA March 1, 09 08:06 PM

    Posted by MIKE March 1, 09 08:16 PM
  1. jd has the best comment here. It would be nice if we could get a shut down corner, but the real issue here is to have a serious pass rushing defense. Once the defense is capable of putting on more pressure, the plays have less of a chance of developing and there will be less chance of our backs getting beaten and being exploited.

    Posted by mr March 1, 09 08:17 PM
  1. James Sanders plays reliably. He's not Bob Sanders (no pun intended) but plays well either as a decent starter or as depth/back-up. I'm sure the Patriots will draft to add depth here as well. Having James Sanders in the mix means this is not a crisis.

    Posted by Justin-R March 1, 09 08:19 PM
  1. championships are all that matter for patriots...
    division championship...afc championship...sb championship...

    many championships have been won over the last decade, which is why Feldman calls the patriots a championship team...

    Posted by bbb March 1, 09 08:49 PM
  1. I must concur with #39 that Merriweather has yet to justify being selected as a 1st round pick! I continue to chortle at the thought that David Harris was still available at #24. Imagine him alongside Mayo !!! Sometimes you can't always draft by best player available, rather you have to risk value to pursue a sure thing.

    Posted by Doc March 1, 09 08:51 PM
  1. Maybe the cap space opened up will allow the Pats to sign a mid to upper tier safety (dont think Harrison is the answer although he is/was a true Patriot player). The secondary needs and upgrade along with linebacker. (see Shawn Crable,Pierre Woods) I understand the draft is rich with linebackers this year so maybe that 34th pick can be used for a young Vrabel/Bruschi type. I love the signing of Fred Taylor and Chris Baker will help solidify TE's.

    Posted by Doug March 1, 09 08:53 PM
  1. sanders taken less money?4million up front from 17 million in cap thats quite a bit for an average player.haveing youth on the team is good to a point.it dosent mean it wins you championships.ask the chargers.

    Posted by darryl March 1, 09 08:59 PM
  1. Well, we have SOMEONE in the secondary signed on. Sanders is still young; it's possible he could have a breakout year, especially with Merriweather out to prove he's not a first-round bust. The 2 will compete for the starting job.

    Note to BB: We need a shut down, A-list CB and an OLB. No more Deltha O'Neals!

    Posted by Nick E. March 1, 09 09:16 PM
  1. So, did Springs come to Foxboro today, or was no one there watching

    Posted by fgfah March 1, 09 09:24 PM
  1. This guy,like the rest of guys back there, never gets his hands on a football ! I realize the pass rush can be sad but still when rodney goes down nobody fills in

    Posted by chuck m. March 1, 09 09:50 PM
  1. New England Patriot fan's need to make up their up mind. Do the fans want an offensive or defensive minded team. Of course the Patriot's defense is weaker than during years the team won a few Super Bowl's. The Patriot's organization and the fans wanted more offense and by spending more money on offense the team and fans had to take money away from the defense. The fans and the Patriot's organization have to be willing to trade offensive money and use the money on the defense.

    Posted by Matthew March 1, 09 10:04 PM
  1. Despite all that's been written, the defensive backfield is pretty well defined.

    LCB: ???
    RCB: Hobbs 25, 1yr left on contract
    3CB: Wheatley 23, 3yrs
    4CB: Wilhite 25, 3yrs
    FS: Merriweather 25, 3yrs
    SS: Sanders 25, 3yrs
    3S, 4S: ???

    Posted by JR March 1, 09 10:23 PM
  1. Who offered him more money? I hear that alot from agents -- he decided to give the "hometown discount" but then we never, never hear the exact team that supposedly offered more. How about a bit of detail? You are a journalist, right?

    Posted by Skeptic March 1, 09 10:25 PM
  1. Meriweather is anything but a bust, those of you who think so need to go back and watch some film. He is always around the ball, his rookie year he could have had 6 or 7 picks, never the less he had 3 passes defended. DB's take a couple of years to gel. Asante Samuel only had 3 ints his first two years and was considered to be a marginal DB. Rodney Harrison only 5 int's his first two years and no passes defended. Meriweather had 9 passes defended last year and 3 his rookie year. Last year he had 4 ints and played pretty well all around. The biggest adjustment he will need to make is to get stronger, his tackling needs to improve. As for Sanders, he too is under appreciated, he is a much more reliable tackler than most people acknowledge. It is in the area of pass coverage he really needs to improve.

    Big strong safeties who can play well in pass coverage are rare, ala Rodney Harrison and Troy Palomalu. There are not many of those types of players to be had in free agency or the draft. And when they are, these types of players are not available for long.

    Posted by Karnak March 1, 09 10:33 PM
  1. Matthew is right. Offense seels games, but defense wins championships. Just look at the past few SB winners: Colts (D picked up big time in the playoffs), NY Giants (predominatly a Defense oriented team) and Pitts (#1 ranked D). The bottom line is that the Pats need to make some big defensive moves in free agency and the draft if they want another chance at a champonship.

    Posted by Jess March 1, 09 10:33 PM
  1. Nice to hear Sanders is coming back. He is a solid safety to pair with Meriweather. One less thing to worry about, especially with Vrabel gone. Drafting a safety is now less critical and the team can concentrate on an impact corner or linebacker in either the draft or free agency (with our new cap space).

    Go Pats!

    Posted by Gregg March 1, 09 10:37 PM
  1. Overrated and now overpaid. Pats on way to 3rd place finish. But hey, at least they'll have Wilfork locked up....

    Posted by Hoss March 1, 09 10:42 PM
  1. I'll bet if BB were two read all these post, telling him how to handle the draft an FA, he'd have a good laugh. Then tell you "it is what it is"

    Posted by Tom March 1, 09 10:46 PM
  1. I'll bet if BB were two read all these post, telling him how to handle the draft an FA, he'd have a good laugh. Then tell you "it is what it is"

    Posted by Tom March 1, 09 10:47 PM
  1. James Sanders is a very capable player of fitting in with the Patriots squad. Eugene Wilson would always get injured, and James would slide right into the lineup. He doesn't get as much credit as he deserves. James Sanders did pretty well when Rodney Harrison was suspended for taking HGH. He's not the type of player that everybody looks at and says, "It's James Sanders!" He doesn't need that type of mentality. He'll be one of those players that will stay healthy, and will be an average type player over the next 3 years. Maybe he will go to a different team when his contract his up, but let's see how he is in the next couple years, and maybe we'll be impressed with his type of play. This kid looks like he can be a quiet winning free safety. I am very excited to see what this kid can do in the near future.

    Posted by Cari March 1, 09 11:15 PM
  1. Skeptic,
    The Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles both offered Sanders more money according to several different articles.

    Posted by Nikos March 2, 09 12:03 AM
  1. Peppers' has a big cap number... and New England has the FIREPOWER to trade for him... so after this weekend, does that mean one of our coveted 2nd rounders? I mean, Cassel had a high cap number too! And Vrabel is a defensive quarterback with TDs in multiple Super Bowls. So yeah, I'd trade a second rounder... but not our top second rounder. Not unless Carolina throws in a first rounder (those are just for suckers anyway).
    Does anyone else think we're in BizaroWorld?

    Posted by Happy Daze are here again March 2, 09 12:37 AM
  1. sanders made alot of good takeles in the past 2 years i thought he got better u dont see him bouncing off runing backs and tightends like meriwether

    Posted by tdog March 2, 09 12:41 AM
  1. yea i guess it was a safe move to sign sanders back but their are better safteys out their who are better like rogers from the browns and philupps from tampa they have had conners in their and they havent signed anything i hope they sign somebody i dnt think hobbs is a starter he gets beat like he stole something and the d-line dont get presure on QBs they need d-line help bad u haft to think what if they go all the way and they face the giants again i mean look at their line look who they picked up rocky benard chris canty and a linebacker from alanta we need players like they used to do like back in the day sign players get better

    Posted by Rich March 2, 09 01:56 AM
  1. This is insignificant. Sanders is average on his best day. He is one of the many non-impact defensive players that now litter this defense. We need PLAYMAKERS on defense. Not "safe" guys who tackle a guy 10 yards down field.

    Posted by Classless March 2, 09 03:21 AM
  1. I really enjoy reading all these posts and others from, based on what is written, all the EXPERT NFL scouts and coaches. My only question is this: Where do all you EXPERT NFL coaches and scouts find the time to write these posts? Why aren't you at the colleges and combines etc., earning the money being paid to all of you by the NFL teams.

    Posted by tonyd March 2, 09 09:12 AM
  1. Who ever it was that wrote that Sanders could not start over Eugene Wilson I guess forgets that Eugene Wilson fell off the depth chart here in New England and that Sanders did beat him out of his starting job.

    Who ever said he was overrated I guess thinks the Browns and Eagles staffs are complete morons then since they both offered him more money.

    Anyone noticed how quickly this happened after the Cassel trade? I am sure they wanted to resign him but couldn't while they were restricted with Cassel on the books. I would be willing to bet Sanders agent was saying come on now we can't wait forever to take a home town discount.

    Posted by Mav March 2, 09 11:15 AM
  1. Great point Mav.

    I am glad someone here is using a little common sense.

    Posted by Len's statistics teacher March 2, 09 11:52 AM
  1. Not a Sanders fan here. Maybe it's the scheme, but on the "free" side, Hobbs is always lined up 10-12 yards off the receiver and his first 2 steps are backwards, always giving up underneath. All year I suspected this was in part due to Sanders not being capable of supporting the pass (a free safety who can't play the pass? It's more likely than you think!) . When tested on anything deep outside, Hobbs is usually there but too short to play on an island, and Sanders can't ever get there. Anything deep middle, Sanders gets beaten. It didn't help that the defense had a hard time getting to the QB. But should we need a lot of excuses for a safety who has a tendency to wander out of position? Between pass rushers, Hobbs, and Sanders, they need to figure something out quickly. Because if they draft a d-back, it's for the strong side corner. Here's to hoping for improvement.

    Posted by Brian March 2, 09 05:02 PM
  1. We won championships with Eugene Wilson, just because he was injured tail end of his time with Pats,doesn't take away how solid he was after Milloy. James Sanders has yet to PROVE he/Hobbs & yes Wilfork can even make a stop to win a in a playoff/Superbowl. I already know Hobbs is 1 problem, but Sanders hasn't made 1 signature play/moment. Remember Indy playoff hit by Eugene? Meriweather is already a playmaker. I thought Sanders & an aging Bruschi were gonna be the easy omissions off this coming season,instead Vrabel(I know,cap reasons). Belicheck can make a secondary coaching move every year,but won't matter till he brings in upgrades in the def backfield.

    Posted by Jevi March 2, 09 05:23 PM
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