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Emmanuel Sanders: It’s a gamble, but an OK trade

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If the 49ers are going to get a wide receiver, Sanders was it.

Today you’re going to read a lot and hear a lot about the San Francisco 49ers trading for Emmanuel Sanders. I’ll begin by saying the 49ers didn’t need a wide receiver. So don’t bother reminding me about that.

The more I think about it, it might be a gamble, but it’s an OK trade. In that above article I highlighted specifically why I didn’t think the 49ers needed a wide receiver. And I’ll pick apart that argument right now:

“If this were an easier offense to learn, I may be a bit more warm to it but not with Kyle Shanahan’s offense”

Sanders checks this box. Rich Scangarello was quarterbacks coach for two years under Shanahan with the 49ers. He also can be credited with that amazing job of coaching Jimmy Garoppolo in 2017. He left in 2019 to be offensive coordinator for Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio. Whether it’s the complicated nature of the offense, the quarterback John Elway saddled Fangio with, or indicators of Scangarello as an offensive coordinator, we don’t know. One has to think that terminology, scheme, and playbook is very similar to Shanahan’s. That means less acclimation of the playbook and a player ready to go right now. There’s likely differences and don’t be surprised if Sanders is limited against Carolina just as a precaution, but after that, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a full workload against Arizona. Good thing he’s got a guy who actually knows how to call this offense and a quarterback who...well...isn’t Joe Flacco.

“So, now you’ve got a guy who has a huge contract—or is due one— working against your salary cap and draft picks that net you someone cheaper due to the CBA, gone.”

Sanders is a free agent after 2020 and 32 years old. He gets something in the neighborhood of $5 million to finish the season with the 49ers. Does he get another deal similar to the one he signed with the Broncos? I doubt it. His total, four-year deal was $27,550,000. You know who else had a deal in that range and was traded to the 49ers on the last year of their deal? Anquan Boldin. Boldin was on a $25,000,000 deal when traded for a sixth round pick to the 49ers. At 34, Boldin signed a two-year, $12,000,00 extension. Sanders turns 33 in March of next year and his stats are better than Boldin’s in this instance, but he’s also 33. He’s in line to get a decent payout, but given his age, the days of a four-year mega deal are over. He could negotiate and take a deal more helpful to the 49ers’ salary cap. A two-year $15 or $16 million deal is NOT out of the question. If the 49ers can afford it—which would be stretching things.

And if they don’t get a deal done, compensatory pick time! It worked for New England and they can work. For. YOU!

“Oh that’s fine, we’re going to just use him for the 2-3 years left of his contract. Ok. 2-3 years for a draft pick you could use on a prospect, get 3-5 years with, a cheaper deal, and have them ready in Week 1?”

It does hurt that the 49ers can’t develop that third and fourth-round pick, but it’s not that bad in this instance. A third-round pick for a guy who already knows the offense, a third that is going to be in the back end of that round with the way the 49ers are playing, and a fourth with the same repercussions, for Sanders and a fifth is fair. When you think of where the 4th will be compared to where the Broncos’ fifth will be, it’s almost like the 49ers just gave up a third for Sanders. The 49ers have built their team through the draft and are not in the position they were in two years ago where they needed players to replace Trent Baalke’s atrocious roster. They have a slew of young players and are in a position where this move won’t cripple them.

There are lots of trades to make. A wide receiver is not one of them.

No, Pat. This is one of them. The 49ers had to have looked at that roster, known they have something special and decided to pull the trigger. Wide receiver has been the issue (well unless you count the injuries to the starters). Sanders is a dependable pass-catcher that can do what Dante Pettis can’t. I can recall some Pettis stride catches that could have been easy waltzes into the endzone, but they were drops.

This doesn’t stop me on Pettis either. What this is is a wakeup call to Pettis and the other wide receivers.

One last thing to bring up beyond the contract, ability, and playbook affluence is Sanders’ age. Yes we talked about that with contracts, but he’s also a veteran. A former 3rd round pick who became a No. 1 wide receiver. That 49ers’ wide receiver group is young and without Pierre Garcon, they don’t have veteran leadership like the cornerbacks have Richard Sherman. Sanders checks that box and can provide that leadership to the group. That also will be worth his salary.

Of course, that’s also wishful thinking since Sanders got into a fight with his own teammate, fellow wide receiver Courtland Sutton, during training camp. He also is coming off an Achilles injury, an injury that had Sherman not playing at 100 percent last year after being cleared.

So there are concerns. There’s a lot of questions with this Sanders trade, but if the 49ers are going to trade for a wide receiver, this is the one to go get.

Well...unless you wanted them to give up a second-round pick for Mohamed Sanu. Does anyone miss that third round pick yet?