On the surface, veteran wide receiver Mohamed Sanu would not appear to have any better chance of sticking with the 49ers this season.
After all, Sanu, who turns 32 in August, is another year older. And while the 49ers lost Kendrick Bourne to the New England Patriots in free agency, Trent Sherfield, Jalen Hurd, Travis Benjamin and Bennie Fowler are among those who will join the competition for spots this summer.
Sanu knows nothing is guaranteed. And he showed during the offseason program that he is determined to remain in the league for at least another season.
“I think Mohamed Sanu serves as a vision for a lot of the young guys because this dude came back in great shape and with something to prove,” 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel said.
In his first eight NFL seasons, Sanu was never a prolific receiver, but he was consistent and reliable. From 2013 through 2019, his number of receptions ranged from 47 to 67 and his receiving yards from 455 to 838.
The Atlanta Falcons traded him to New England in 2019 for a second-round draft pick. The Patriots released him at the end of training camp.
The 49ers signed him early last season, then released him after just three games. He had one catch for 9 yards. Sanu ended up with the Detroit Lions, where he caught 16 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown in seven games (four starts).
Now, he is back with the 49ers to rejoin Kyle Shanahan and McDaniel, who coached him with the Falcons in 2016.
“You can tell he does not expect anything to be given to him,” McDaniel said of Sanu. “And he’s trying to earn his spot on this team. It was very exciting to see him perform (in the offseason program).
“He was doing very well, and if he comes back to training camp in that same shape, he’s going to be a guy who is going to be tough to beat out for that final roster.”
The 49ers figure to keep six receivers on their roster at the start of the regular season. Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel are the team’s top wideouts. Richie James is set to enter his fourth season with the 49ers. Sherfield has an edge because of his special-teams contributions.
Sanu joins the competition with Hurd, Benjamin, Fowler, River Cracraft, Jauan Jennings, Kevin White, Andy Jones and undrafted rookie Austin Watkins Jr.
McDaniel said the offseason program was productive to set the table for what figures to be a vigorous competition for roster spots during training camp. McDaniel said the seven practices in Santa Clara provided a good sense of what it is going to take to make the team. Everyone had highs and lows, he said.
“The competition is heavy, and you’d be a fool to try to predict who’ll be on our final roster with or without injuries,” McDaniel said.