The 49ers needed immediate help, so they did not wait until the trade deadline to make a deal to strengthen their roster at a position of need.
The 49ers focused on adding one of two wide receivers – either, they determined, would provide an upgrade over the players assembled on the team’s roster.
They ended up with veteran Emmanuel Sanders, who could end up being just a half-season rental. But the 49ers are in a position to win now. And Sanders gives them a better chance.
After all, Dante Pettis’ production in the passing game has come to a halt. Deebo Samuel has some flashes, but he is not a player at this point for whom defenses must account. Marquise Goodwin, Kendrick Bourne and Richie James are fine in spot duty.
The 49ers made one move seven days before the trade deadline, and it was designed to pay immediate dividends.
“To say we’re all-in -- I wouldn’t word it that way -- but when you’re 6-0, that’s a little different than where we’ve been a week before the trade deadline these last two years,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said at the time the deal was made.
“When you do have a chance like we do with our record, if we felt we could add to our team and not truly jeopardize it (the future), that’s something we were looking to do.”
The 49ers received Sanders and a fifth-round pick from the Denver Broncos. They sent third- and fourth-round picks to Denver. The club hopes the two draft selections going to Denver will be late in those rounds. Currently, Denver is one of the worst teams in the league, so the fifth-round selection coming back to Santa Clara is likely to be early in that round.
Therefore, the 49ers might only lose 10 to 15 spots in the draft with the exchange of their fourth-rounder for Denver’s fifth. The third-round selection could be offset a year down the road with a compensatory pick if Sanders signs a nice contract with another team in the offseason and the 49ers have more free agency losses than gains.
Because the 49ers needed help now, they did not have any time to wait around for a player. That is why they focused on Sanders and Mohamed Sanu. Those players are healthy and had a knowledge of the system. Sanders played this season under Denver offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, who served as the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach the previous two seasons. Sanu played in Shanahan’s system in 2015 and ’16 with the Atlanta Falcons.
The 49ers did not pursue Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green, who still has not played this season due to an ankle injury. The Bengals did not appear eager to trade Green. Also, the 49ers were not sure what kind of player they would be getting due to his injury situation.
The 49ers entered training camp feeling good about their wide receivers. But the club absorbed a couple of big hits when their best pass-catcher throughout the offseason and the first two weeks of camp, Trent Taylor, sustained a fractured foot. The 49ers hope he can be available later in the season.
Also, promising rookie Jalen Hurd has missed all but the first preseason game with a stress reaction in his back.
The 49ers now have reason to like their roster after adding a wide receiver. They could have tried to replenish their 2020 draft after trading their second-round pick for Dee Ford and the other selections for Sanders.
But they also did not want to give away anyone else on their 53-man roster without getting a decent price in return.
“The trade deadline is always here at this time,” Shanahan said on Tuesday. “There’s always a lot of talk. . . It’s hard to do things in the league without taking huge risks on it for not as much reward. That’s usually why there's a lot more talk than action.
“But I was very excited with what we got done last week. I would’ve been excited if we did anything today because if we did it would’ve been good for our team.”