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Did the Patriots just set the trade market for a receiver?

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The 49ers have been linked to wide receivers the last couple of weeks. How will the Patriots trading for Sanu impact their decisions?

Atlanta Falcons v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Early Tuesday morning, the New England Patriots traded a second-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. The 30-year old wideout was linked to the San Francisco 49ers as a potential trade target. We can argue all morning whether Sanu is worth a second-rounder. The majority of the receivers that are reportedly available for trade have contracts that expire after this season. With Sanu, you get an extra year.

ESPN’s Jeff Legwold said he asked a couple of personnel folks in the league if second-rounder for Sanu is similar to potential value for Emmanuel Sanders, they both pointed out Sanu two years younger & also has 2020 on his contract and Sanders does not, so Sanu’s potential is more than a half-season addition.

Sanu made sense for San Francisco as he played under Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta for two years when Shanahan was calling the offense. Statistically, Sanu’s best season was in 2018. The 49ers don’t have a second-round pick in the 2020 draft after acquiring Dee Ford. Even though Ford has been limited, his impact is apparent. Ford takes the pressure off a guy like Arik Armstead and allows the 49ers defensive line to get favorable matchups consistently. It helps that Ford is really, really good.

You have to pay to play

As for the other wideouts, the Niners shouldn’t have to pay as steep of a price. I’d love to hear Bill Belichick’s reasoning for trading for Sanu over A.J. Green or Emmanuel Sanders. Perhaps that extra year makes that much of a difference. Or, Denver and Cincinnati have an asking price that’s too steep. Both players would be considered a half-year rental. Both players are also incredibly skilled and would make the 49ers more challenging to defend in January.

The discussion surrounding the 49ers and trading for a receiver seems to always circle back to will Shanahan throw the ball to him. The offense is relying heavily on George Kittle, and after that, the targets are few and far between for the wideouts. Kittle has 42 targets, and the next closest player is Deebo Samuel, who has five more targets than Dante Pettis while playing in one less game. In my opinion, Shanahan doesn’t fully trust the receivers that are on the field. Each receiver has their moments, but each receiver has proven to be inconsistent to this point. Thinking Shanahan won’t adjust his offense to tailor around a playmaker is something that keeps coming up for whatever reason.

Another one is, “why trade for a receiver when we’re undefeated?” The Patriots are always in this position in the middle of the season, where they’re either undefeated or close to it. Rarely does adding talent to make your team worse. In the 49ers situation, in what world does giving up a third-round pick—a pick that will likely land in the low ‘80s—for Sanders, or Devante Parker, make your team worse? It doesn’t. I understand fans overvalue draft picks and aren’t big on change, but you have to pay to play. I love the idea that the front office is continuing to invest in their quarterback and ensure that Jimmy Garoppolo has a stable of weapons around him.

This will be an interesting week. On Sunday, the 49ers were highly motivated to acquire a wide receiver. Yesterday, Shanahan said he trusted his in-house options. There’s no question the 49ers are one of the best teams in the NFC. To win in the playoffs, they’ll need somebody on the perimeter that they can count on. Through six games, they haven’t had a receiver they can count on. The team can be undefeated and still have room to improve. Both of these things can be true. A few factors will go into the decision to make a trade. Is the cost worth the player and his contract? Do I have a chance to re-sign him? How will he fit in the locker room? Is this player worth possibly stunting the growth of my young receivers? I don’t envy John Lynch and company. If the Niners are going to make a run, I believe adding a receiver is a no-brainer before the trade deadline.