Coach Kyle Shanahan hopes the 49ers have wide receivers Deebo Samuel (foot) and Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring) back on the field next week, but given all of the injuries San Francisco has had at the position, his eyes might light up upon glancing at the waiver wire on Thursday.
NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that the New England Patriots are releasing wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, citing a source.
The Patriots acquired Sanu for a second-round draft pick in a midseason trade with the Atlanta Falcons last year. The 49ers had looked into acquiring him, but ultimately traded for Emmanuel Sanders instead.
Sanders now plays for the New Orleans Saints, while Jalen Hurd is out for the season. Richie James is on the mend from a broken wrist, Samuel and Aiyuk are still sidelined and Trent Taylor is returning after missing all of last season due to injury. The 49ers have had to bring in several free-agent receivers throughout training camp as a result, with Tavon Austin looking like a legitimate possibility for the 53-man roster.
Samuel, Aiyuk, Taylor and Kendrick Bourne are locks to make it. That leaves Austin, Dante Pettis, seventh-round pick Jauan Jennings and others competing for one, maybe two spots depending on how many receivers Shanahan and general manager John Lynch want to keep. With Sanu suddenly becoming available, however, it wouldn't be surprising at all if he joined that group.
Sanu played under Shanahan during his final season as the Falcons offensive coordinator in 2016, in which Sanu hauled in 59 receptions for 653 yards and four touchdowns. He caught 59 passes for 520 yards and two scores in 15 games with the Falcons and Patriots last season.
With 118 career games played, Sanu is more experienced than every receiver in contention for the final spot(s) on the 49ers' 53-man roster, and -- listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds -- is bigger than all of them outside of Jennings. Those are two relative areas of weakness for San Francisco, and Sanu would immediately help address both of them.
If the 49ers were interested in him when it was going to cost them draft assets, you can be sure they're interested in Sanu now, when it won't cost them anything more than his salary.
He likely will be in fairly high demand on the open market, but the stars could align for San Francisco based on his previous relationship with Shanahan and the 49ers' need.