Could the 49ers reunite with a familiar face to fill a major need?
The MMQB's Albert Breer listed New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who joined the 49ers in a midseason trade in 2019, among the "names that have been floated for trades in football circles over the last couple weeks" in a column Monday.
"Sanders turns 34 in March, and is still probably worth the $8 million he’s slated to make this year," Breer wrote. "But at this point, he’s a luxury the Saints can’t afford to have."
Sanders signed a two-year contract worth up to $19 million with the Saints last offseason, according to Over The Cap. The wide receiver is only guaranteed $2 million if he's on New Orleans' roster on March 22, but carries a $10 million cap number for the Saints due to his $6 million base salary and $2 million prorated bonus.
If the Saints trade Sanders prior to June 1, they would carry only $4 million against the cap with his contract off the books. If New Orleans traded him after, his cap number would be just $2 million.
That would represent important savings for the Saints, who, according to Breer, were $46.22 million over a projected $183 million salary cap. Sanders was productive for New Orleans in 2020, catching 61 passes for 726 yards and five touchdowns. But something has to give in the Big Easy, and the veteran's digestible, expiring contract could make him appealing to teams around the league.
Sanders was a valuable part of the 49ers' run to Super Bowl LIV, catching 36 passes for 502 yards and three TDs during the regular season. He caught just five passes for 71 yards in the postseason, thanks in no small part to Kyle Shanahan's emphasis on the run during the playoffs.
The 49ers have more pressing needs than receiver, still needing to re-sign key pieces in the secondary and along the offensive line while having a shade over $28 million in cap space as of Sunday, according to Breer. Sanders' close relationships with some of the 49ers' remaining wide receivers, such as Deebo Samuel, and his ability to play in the slot and elsewhere in the offense could make a reunion enticing.
Sanders' cap number could still prove to be a prohibitive cost for the 49ers, even after his bonuses are paid out. But it shouldn't cost much, if any, draft capital to help the Saints out of their salary-cap pinch, and familiarity could be appealing in the Niners' bid to return to the playoffs in 2021.