We could be looking at one of the biggest free agency periods in recent memory if some of the notable names actually hit the open market. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Derrick Henry are just a few of the big names set to hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year opens on March 18th. One or more stands a good chance of signing a contract with their current team before then, but there is a chance one or more is taking calls when the tampering period opens on March 16th.
2019 in review
In his tenth professional season, Sanders appeared in more games than he had in any other season throughout his career. His 20-game season was due to missing out on a bye week after being traded from the Broncos to the 49ers in mid-October. Oh, and making the Super Bowl probably contributed to that, as well. Regardless of San Francisco’s success, it was an average year in the stat columns for the 32-year-old receiver as he ended with 3.9 receptions per game, 51.1 yards per game and five touchdowns.
While Sanders had two games with 100+ receiving yards for the Niners, Deebo Samuel overshadowed him as the season wore on. At any rate, Sanders’ receiving skill set and veteran experience will be very useful to a number of teams.
The obvious destination is San Francisco, as both parties seemed relatively pleased with the relationship that developed in the second half of the season. Although with salary cap concerns looming over the 49ers organization, the aging wide receiver, who turns 33 in March, may not be the ideal route. With an ample talent pool of young studs, San Francisco could find itself with a tough decision to either over-pay for a one/two-year deal with Emmanuel, or potentially get a compensatory draft pick if he signs elsewhere.
As mentioned, plenty of teams would benefit from Sanders’ experience and his still-impressive skill set. But it’s hard to imagine him landing at a rebuilding organization at this stage in his career. Instead, a team like the Saints that are determined to go on a Super Bowl run every season and could use a secondary weapon to complement Michael Thomas may be desirable. Or perhaps switching back to the AFC, where a team like the Colts could take him in, pairing him with T.Y. Hilton. That would certainly be one of the deadliest over-30 duos this league has ever seen.
Do the 49ers want to keep him?
As discussed, there’s nothing that shows any ounce of displeasure in their arrangement. In fact, that trade with Denver was one of the keys to success in 2019-2020 for San Francisco’s offense. But they may not want to keep Manny because of his age and the potentially high amount of money he would expect.
For what it’s worth, Sanders said after the Super Bowl loss, “I love the Niners organization, so we’re going to see what’s to happen.” Uncertainty is swirling.
From a fantasy standpoint, we fans would probably like to see him go to a team in need of receivers. His role became very defined in the 49ers offense, where he turned into a tertiary option behind Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. Logging only two games with more than four receptions during his time at San Francisco won’t cut it for a viable fantasy option. Whereas if he lands on a team that he’s more of a secondary or, better yet, primary receiver, we’ll at least have hope of some fantasy relevancy for Sanders.
The Cowboys lost Randall Cobb to free agency and re-signed Amari Cooper, but could use some depth for Dak Prescott.