NFL

Agent: 4 clubs interested in Bob Sanders

Sports Xchange Len Pasquarelli
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INDIANAPOLIS

The past physical problems endured by safety Bob Sanders, which limited him to just nine appearances in the past three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, figure to have a bearing on his future.

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"There's some uncertainty right now (about where Sanders will play in 2011)," agent Tom Condon told The Sports Xchange on Sunday night. "It's kind of still up in the air."

Sanders, who was released last week by the Colts, has so far visited Jacksonville and Buffalo. There are two other unnamed teams, Condon said, who have expressed interest in the two-time Pro Bowl safety. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said here at the combine that Sanders passed the team physical exam during his visit. Coach Chan Gailey of the Bills has not commented on his club's physical assessment.

The conundrum confronting Sanders, Condon acknowledged, is whether to sign in advance of the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, which lapses at 11:59 Thursday night, or delay until the start of free agency. It is not certain when, or even if, there will be a free agency period if there is no new CBA.

Because he was released by Indianapolis, which opted to avoid Sanders' salary of $5.5 million for 2011, and a $500,000 offseason workout bonus, the safety can reach a contract accord before the CBA is up. There will be no signings permitted in the NFL, however, if there is a lockout.

Although he declined to detail if either Jacksonville or Buffalo has offered a formal contract proposal, Condon conceded that any pact Sanders signs now would likely be incentive-laden and tied to his playing time and production. By waiting, Sanders could gamble that a delay might improve any job offers and possibly his leverage.

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On the flip side, by delaying, Sanders' current options could evaporate.

Said Condon: "It's a puzzle and only he knows what he thinks is best."

Sanders, who turned 30 last week, is one of the most impactful defenders in the game when healthy. But those occasions have been fewer by the year. He's an undersized player who plays his position with abandon and little regard for his body, which has led to a near continuous string of injuries since his most productive seasons in the league.

In 2007, he was cited as the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. But he has played in only nine games since signing a five-year, $37.5 million deal in 2007. The former University of Iowa star, a first-round pick in 2004, has been beset by injuries and poor fortune.

Among the most serious physical ailments have been knee and biceps injuries.

In his seven seasons with the Colts, Sanders appeared in only 48 games. He missed 64 games, the equivalent of four seasons, because of the injuries.

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Playing at both safety spots, but most effective near the line of scrimmage, Sanders is often shorter, smaller and lighter than blockers and ballcarriers he encountered. He has totaled 290 tackles, six interceptions, 13 passes defensed, and two forced fumbles in his career.

Jacksonville employed five different starters at safety in 2010 and that roulette at the position, combined with Sanders' familiarity with the AFC South, clearly make him attractive to the Jaguars.

The Bills' top safety, Donte Whitner, is a pending unrestricted free agent, and has announced his intention to move on. Another safety, George Wilson, who has started at times, is also eligible for free agency.

What is unlikely to happen for Sanders, Condon said, is a return to the Colts. There had been some speculation that Indianapolis could attempt to resign the veteran safety, but at a less expensive and more protective price.

"I just think," Condon said, "it would be hard for him to go back."

Tagged: Bills, Colts, Bob Sanders

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