The Cincinnati Bengals drafted wide receiver Mohamed Sanu in 2012, but the pass-catcher moved elsewhere Thursday after four seasons in the Queen City.
Before this contract, 2015 represented the final season of a four-year deal worth slightly more than $2.7 million for Sanu, according to Spotrac.
Sanu helps fill a void left by veteran Roddy White, who was released by the team on March 2. He joins a wide receiver corps that features the explosive Julio Jones, who is arguably the NFL's best wide receiver.
Dan Duggan of NJ Advance Media pointed out Sanu was previously on one of the most team-friendly contracts in the league before the 2015 campaign. The receiver was a finalist for the Vizio Top Value Performer trophy after the 2014 season. The award goes to the player "whose on-field performance most exceeds the value of their contract."
Sanu likely earned this new deal based largely on that 2014 performance rather than his 2015 totals. He tallied career highs in catches (56), receiving yards (790) and touchdown receptions (five) in 2014 and completed three passes for 79 yards and a score.
The Rutgers product played all 16 games in 2013 and 2014 and emerged as a go-to option when A.J. Green and Marvin Jones missed time with injury. Green appeared in 13 games in 2014, while Jones did not play a single snap. Still, Sanu kept the passing game afloat on the way to a postseason appearance for the Bengals.
However, there was a noticeable drop-off in 2015, which culminated in three catches for 17 yards in Cincinnati's postseason loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The RotoWire staff at CBSSports.com speculated after the game that Sanu's days in Cincinnati could be over as a result:
The fourth-year pro had a quiet game as the Bengals' third wideout option, a fitting end to a season that saw his passing game role deemphasized with the return of teammate Marvin Jones to full health. Sanu tallied a solid 56 receptions on 98 targets in 2014 while Jones sat out the season with foot and ankle injuries, but those numbers fell to 33 and 50, respectively, in 2015. Sanu also failed to get into the end zone all season, and with his rookie contract now expired, may have played his last game in a Bengals uniform.
That is exactly what happened, but Sanu's new team will likely look to his past production and potential at only 26 years old rather than his 2015 struggles (394 receiving yards and zero touchdown catches) as reasons for optimism.
At his best, Sanu boasts impressive speed (4.41-second 40-yard dash at his pro day) that allows him to beat single coverage and defenders in the open field. His versatility with the ability to throw the ball gives Atlanta options in the play-calling department as well, and he ran some Wildcat looks in 2015.
Sanu was a solid complement to Green because he took some of the focus away from the star receiver with his speed but was also comfortable settling for the openings underneath when the secondary shaded Green's way. His team-first approach playing alongside a superstar will likely endear him to his new fans, especially if he reverts back to his 2014 totals moving forward.