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ESPN predicts Emmanuel Sanders will sign with the Jets

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While San Francisco lands a former Bengals star receiver

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

ESPN’s Bill Barwell wrote a predictions column about possible moves we could see in free agency this in a month that could have a domino effect and cause chaos around the league. Barnwell involved the San Francisco 49ers in two deals, both surrounding the wide receiver position. The first move includes Emmanuel Sanders going to another team. Barnwell has Sanders signing a four-year, $40 million deal with the New York Jets:

With Quincy Enunwa’s future uncertain after suffering his second neck injury in three years, the Jets could add a replacement for the 27-year-old by signing Sanders. The SMU product played well after returning from a torn Achilles and enjoyed his time under Jets coach Adam Gase when both were in Denver.

The real takeaway here is that it’s going to be tough for the 49ers to retain Sanders. He’s going to have suitors, and someone is going to pay him a lot of money. Sanders did everything that the 49ers asked of him, and then some. In an offense that was more wide receiver centric, Sanders puts up bigger numbers, and it would be tougher to let him leave. I think Sanders was as good as he showed in the first few games where he went over 100 yards twice.

Sanders replacement

If we’re playing the hypothetical that Sanders is leaving, the question becomes, what steps do the 49ers take in replacing him? Do they stand pat, and bank on the development of Jalen Hurd, Richie James, Dante Pettis, and Trent Taylor getting healthy? Do they invest in the draft again? Barnwell put together a scenario where San Francisco swings for the fences in free agency:

THE 49ERS SIGN A.J. GREEN TO A FOUR-YEAR, $84 MILLION CONTRACT

While San Francisco would likely be interested in bringing back Emmanuel Sanders, Green is a clear step above Sanders and would be an ideal primary receiver in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Injuries are becoming a concern for the 31-year-old Green, who didn’t play a snap this past season, but this is a chance to add a transformational receiver.

When you look at the money, it feels like a waste. Green was that good and is a perfect fit for a Kyle Shanahan offense that needs a No. 1 receiver that can win 1-on-1 on the outside and pick apart zone coverage over the middle. The projection is why I’m hesitant. Letting a 32-year-old receiver walk to sign wideout that will be 32-years-old in July and hasn’t played football in a year is risky, to say the least. Let’s say we’re in the middle of the season, and Green is injured, and the passing game is stagnant once again. You can’t continue to sacrifice your future draft capital.

Signing Green would be great if he turns out to be healthy. That’s a big “if,” though. I’ve heard people say that Green runs under that 3rd & 15 pass toward the end of the game. That’s not fair to Green or Sanders. The 49ers have a decision to make at one of the most critical positions in football. Is wide receiver minimized in Shanahan’s offense? That’s the wrong way to look at it. The first half of the season showed us that the offense could get by without a top threat. In the second half of the season, we saw how dangerous this offense is when you have a legitimate receiving threat. We’ll find out soon enough if the Niners make another splash move at the position.