No. 2: 49ers letting Emmanuel Sanders walk in free agency
Granted, it makes a lot of sense why the Niners passed on re-signing veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders during the offseason. Sanders, after all, boasted just two games in which he posted 100-plus receiving yards after being acquired midseason from the Denver Broncos, and it was a fair question to ask whether or not he’d be worth a substantial deal in free agency.
Turns out, though, Sanders would sign a relatively inexpensive two-year, $16 million deal with one of the teams the 49ers will contend with this season for the NFC crown, the New Orleans Saints.
Sanders’ presence on the field during the latter half of 2019 went beyond the stat line. Before his acquisition, San Francisco’s wide receiver corps was a proverbial “black hole” with relatively little production from anyone in particular. Once Sanders arrived, then-rookie wideout Deebo Samuel‘s efforts took off.
Now, it’ll be up to Samuel and the Niners’ second first-round pick of the 2020 draft, Brandon Aiyuk, to provide the bulk of production from this position.
That can be a lot to ask, especially considering the relative lack of pro-level experience from the two players now tasked with leading the offense’s wide receiver corps. And while the hope is the transition from Sanders to Samuel and Aiyuk will be seamless, it’s also highly possible things don’t go as well as anticipated.
If so, bidding farewell to Sanders could end up being a big mistake.