The 49ers bringing Emmanuel Sanders back always was a tricky proposition.
With the reigning NFC champions having to figure out how to pay Arik Armstead, Jimmie Ward and extend George Kittle, giving Sanders the same deal he could get on the open market always was going to be difficult. The veteran wide receiver currently is surveying his options as the new league year begins, and reportedly has his eyes on heading to another NFC title contender, as there reportedly is mutual interest between Sanders and the Dallas Cowboys, NFL Media's Jane Slater reported Wednesday.
Sanders attended SMU has been linked to the Cowboys before. Two offseasons ago, when it looked like Sanders might be released by the Broncos, speculation arose that Sanders would look to sign with the Cowboys if that did happen. That didn't happen, but the Cowboys appear to have been on Sanders' radar for quite some time.
The 49ers opened the legal tampering window with a bang. They agreed to re-signed Arik Armstead to a massive five-year deal and then traded DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They also have agreed to re-sign Jimmie Ward and Ronald Blair.
Sanders was a key part of the 49ers' Super Bowl run after coming over from the Denver Broncos in a midseason trade. He caught 36 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns after arriving in Santa Clara. Sanders still is one of the best route-runners in football, and he has stellar hands. The Achilles injury he suffered in 2018 appears to be behind him, and the 33-year-old showed he still has a lot left in the tank.
If Sanders does leave for Dallas or anywhere else, the 49ers will need to address the wide receiver position, even more, this offseason. If they elect to keep the No. 13 pick and not trade it to collect assets, they could have one of CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs III fall into their lap.
As for the Cowboys, they already agreed to re-sign Amari Cooper and placed the exclusive tag on quarterback Dak Prescott. Signing Sanders would give them a dynamic trio of receivers in Cooper, Sanders and Michael Gallup, making them even more of a threat to the 49ers in the hunt for the NFC crown.
The 49ers also expect Jalen Hurd and Trent Taylor to be full-go for the start of next season.