The former Niners star from 2019 signed with the New Orleans Saints in 2020 to try and win the Super Bowl with quarterback Drew Brees and Co. Since then, the Saints have been cleaning up cap space and Sanders was one of the cap-casualty tragedies.
Lots of fans are on the fence with Sanders. Some wouldn’t mind seeing him in red and gold again, while others are fine with the dynamic duo of Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. A lot of it depends on how much Sanders will be asking for in free agency, but with roughly $25 million in cap space available, the two sides could make something happen.
Sanders and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had fantastic chemistry over the course of 2019. Just to refresh your memory, here’s Sanders’ highlight package with San Francisco.:
The 49ers seemed to go from a “good team” to a legit Super Bowl contender. They were a Sanders-Garoppolo touchdown from potentially winning it all.
It’s expected Garoppolo will begin the 2021 season as San Francisco’s starter. Having Sanders return, and with training camp under his belt, could boost both players.
General manager John Lynch will have a tough decision to make. He has a solid receiver in Kendrick Bourne, who is set to become a free agent. But if they have a chance to sign a proven veteran, Bourne is all but gone.
The 49ers want to win now. They need to find a way to stay competitive in the NFC West and the conference as a whole. Reuniting with Sanders will immediately put them back into contention.
Playing alongside Brees, Sanders recorded five touchdowns, nearly 800 yards receiving, while catching 74 percent of passes, which was a career-high.
Just over a year ago, I made the bold statement saying the 49ers would be just fine without Sanders in 2020. Technically, I wasn’t too far off because the team picked up Aiyuk who’s going to be a stud for a long time.
However, I’ll admit to being wrong. The Niners certainly needed a strong veteran leader in the receivers’ room. With the loss of Aiyuk and Samuel to injuries and COVID-19 protocols, the team was in need of someone to step up.
Sanders could’ve been the guy.
When San Francisco was flip-flopping quarterbacks after Garoppolo was injured, it could’ve used a steady leader and sure-handed receiver.
Again, Sanders could’ve been the guy.
If Lynch decides to embark in talks with Sanders, he should start by apologizing for letting one of their best offensive weapons go. Understandably, it wasn’t easy for the two sides to re-sign as Sanders deserved a raise and the 49ers just couldn’t afford it.
NBC Sports Matt Maiocco brought up a quote from head coach Kyle Shanahan regarding Sanders signing with the Saints:
"“(It was) really hard to lose Emmanuel this offseason,” Shanahan said. “One of the toughest decisions we had to make. But New Orleans came through and gave him what he deserved and we had to move in a different direction and go there in the draft.“Just watching him and what he did for us in that game last year these last couple of days is unbelievable and he’s doing an unbelievable job for them, also.”"
But now there’s room. And, the 49ers are a better team than the record shows. Sanders can certainly help the young guys out and he would also allow tight end George Kittle a chance to play his game without worrying about being the main star.
If the 49ers want another chance at the Super Bowl which is being played in Los Angeles, reuniting with Sanders would be a good start.