49ers Rumors: Breaking Down Emmanuel Sanders' Departure, Possible Replacements

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 21, 2020

DUPLICATE***San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jalen Hurd (17)***San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (17) carries against New Orleans Saints strong safety Vonn Bell (24) in the first half an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brett Duke)
Brett Duke/Associated Press

The San Francisco 49ers were not able to retain the services of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders

The 33-year-old, who had the third-most receiving yards on the team in 2019, opted to sign with the New Orleans Saints Friday, per ESPN's Adam Schefter

Schefter also mentioned the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers were potential suitors for Sanders, who was traded to the 49ers from the Denver Broncos in 2019 to bolster the wide receiver depth of the NFC West side. 

That leaves Deebo Samuel as the only returning wide receiver who recorded more than 500 receiving yards last season. Tight end George Kittle led the 49ers with 1,053 receiving yards on 85 receptions. 

Marquise Goodwin, Kendrick Bourne and Dante Pettis are all under contract for the 2020 campaign, but none of them impressed on a consistent basis, and that is what led to acquiring Sanders in the first place. 

If the 49ers want to bolster their wide receiver corps through free agency, there are a handful of options to pursue. 

Robby Anderson, Breshad Perriman and Phillip Dorsett are among the remaining free agents, but they may not be as appealing as the 2020 NFL draft class. 

Since the wide receiver class is one of the strongest we have ever seen, some franchises may be holding out until April to select Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs III and others. 

If the 49ers pursue a veteran option at the position, they may have to find a middle ground with players who could be commanding more on the market. 

For example, Anderson made $3,095,000 in 2019, and he could be looking for more money in 2020, but teams may be hesitant to hand him a large check because the demand has shrunk. 

Perriman earned $4 million with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, but the 49ers are only paying one wide receiver over that amount in 2020. 

With Samuel the likely candidate to take over the top spot on the depth chart, San Francisco may not be willing to splash that much money on a wideout.

Dorsett carries a bit more value since he made $1.5 million in base salary with the New England Patriots last season.

He told ESPN's Josina Anderson at the start of free agency that the 49ers were one of five teams "showing preliminary interest" in him.

Even spending a few million dollars could hurt San Francisco because its salary cap budget sits beneath $15 million.

If Kyle Shanahan sticks with the current group he has, more production is required out of Bourne, Goodwin and Pettis.

Bourne had five touchdown catches in the regular season, but he only totaled 358 yards on 30 receptions. Goodwin had 12 receptions for 186 yards in nine games, and Pettis hauled in 11 passes for 109 yards over 11 contests. 

The good news in this situation is the 49ers carry an abundance of running backs in a run-heavy system, so they might be able to get by without signing another wide receiver.

However, as we saw with the Sanders addition in 2019, adding someone to complement Samuel and Kittle could reap plenty of rewards.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference

Contract information obtained from Spotrac


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