A report from ESPN’s Josina Anderson stated former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders will be signing with the New Orleans Saints this offseason.
So much for the San Francisco 49ers keeping one of their top wide receivers from the 2019 season.
On Friday evening, ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders would be signing with the New Orleans Saints in NFL free agency, being one of only three Niners starters to depart the team this offseason, the others being defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (trade) and right guard Mike Person (cut).
San Francisco acquired the 33-year-old Sanders via a midseason trade with the Denver Broncos, sending a third- and fourth-round pick to acquire the veteran, along with Denver’s fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
During his time with the 49ers, Sanders picked up 502 receiving yards on 36 catches with three touchdowns. His presence alleviated what had been a lackluster effort among other wide receivers up to that point in the season, and the departure all but guarantees the Niners will be looking at a wide receiver early in April’s draft.
There are reasons why San Francisco can get by without Sanders’ services. Then-rookie wideout Deebo Samuel flashed plenty of promise in the second half, and the 49ers will eagerly await the returns of wide receivers Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd from injured reserve.
Still, banking on the latter two probably won’t be the only thing head coach Kyle Shanahan wants to do at the position this offseason.
San Francisco has just under $17 million in cap space, currently, according to Over the Cap. While the contractual details of Sanders’ reported deal with New Orleans aren’t yet known, it’s likely his asking price was far beyond what the Niners were willing to pay.
Update: ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports it’s a two-year deal worth $16 million, and the number could go up to $18 million.
Especially considering teams usually reserve about $10 million to cover the cost of a rookie draft class.
Fortunately, the 2020 draft class is tremendously deep at the position. On top of that, the 49ers picking up the No. 13 overall pick in the draft from the Indianapolis Colts, who acquired Buckner, means Shanahan will have a much better chance grabbing a wide receiver of his preference.
Sanders’ departure only pushes the likelihood of the Niners going with this position first in the draft.
On another consolation note, San Francisco will also likely receive a compensatory draft pick for Sanders in 2021, and one could guess it’ll either be a third- or fourth-round selection. That’ll make this apparent transaction sit a bit easier among Niners fans, too.