Mohamed Sanu

NFC West Rumors: 49ers, Hopkins, Rams

Hit hard by injuries this summer, the 49ers‘ passing attack will be a shell of its optimal version Sunday. The 49ers declared George Kittle out Friday with a sprained knee. Kittle will not travel with the team to New York but will instead meet his teammates in West Virginia, where the 49ers will practice next week in between their road tilts against the Jets and Giants, Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com tweets. While the 49ers are expected to have first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk make his NFL debut, being down Kittle and top wideout Deebo Samuel (on IR) will not make matters easy for Jimmy Garoppolo.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • DeAndre Hopkins signed a lucrative two-year, $54MM add-on with the Cardinals add-on recently. He will go from earning $26MM through 2021 on his previous deal to making $42.75MM — all fully guaranteed — in that span, according to Albert Breer of SI.com (on Twitter). Hopkins’ $6.65MM 2022 base salary vests in March 2021, Breer adds. Signed through 2024, Hopkins will receive $60.1MM over the deal’s first three years — up from the $39.1MM he would have collected under the terms of his Texans-constructed contract. The final two years of Hopkins’ new deal — 2023 and ’24 — are option years, Breer adds (via Twitter).
  • Despite eating a stunning $21.8MM in dead money from their Brandin Cooks trade, the Rams dived back into the fray of high-end receiver contracts. Their three-year, $47.25MM Cooper Kupp deal includes $35.1MM guaranteed and $20.3MM in full guarantees, according to OverTheCap. Woods’ four-year, $65MM pact, which comes with $32MM guaranteed, will only pay him $4.5MM over the next two years — which were part of his previous Rams contract. However, the deal’s first new year (2022) comes with $13.5MM, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
  • More injury trouble for Dee Ford. The 49ers pass rusher is now battling a neck issue and is questionable for Sunday’s game. Ford, who did not practice this week, has run into extensive injury trouble during his time with the 49ers. He played through knee, quad and hamstring issues in 2019 and missed time during camp with a calf malady. The 49ers restructured Ford’s contract to create cap space; the move will make it more difficult for the team to cut or trade Ford in 2021.
  • Mohamed Sanu‘s 49ers deal is worth a tad more than the veteran minimum. The former Bengals, Falcons and Patriots wideout signed a one-year pact worth around $1.125MM, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets, adding that Sanu will receive a $137.5K bonus — despite being an in-season addition. Although the 31-year-old target struggled to assimilate in New England, he played under Kyle Shanahan with the 2016 Falcons.
  • The Seahawks are still on the lookout for pass-rushing help. The team brought in former Chiefs second-round edge rusher Breeland Speaks for a recent workout, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. A 2018 draftee, Speaks could not make the Chiefs’ 53-man roster. He missed all of last season due to injury.

49ers Sign Mohamed Sanu

The 49ers have agreed to sign Mohamed Sanu to a one-year contract, according to an announcement from his agent (Twitter link). The deal reunites the wide receiver with Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan, who worked with the veteran in Atlanta. 

[RELATED: Ziggy Ansah Leaves 49ers Without Deal]

Sanu, 31, underwhelmed during his eight regular season games (six starts) with the Patriots, hauling in 26 receptions (on 47 targets) for 207 yards and one score. He was also invisible during New England’s playoff loss to the Titans as he caught just one pass for eleven yards. Earlier this month, the Patriots dropped Sanu to save $6.5MM in cap space.

Sanu’s low-cost deal could pay serious dividends for SF. Despite his iffy 2019, he’s only a season removed from a campaign where he finished with a career-high 838 receiving yards to go along with 66 receptions and four touchdowns. There should also be ample opportunity for him, considering all of the injuries in the 49ers’ WR group. Deebo Samuel won’t return until Week 4 at the earliest, first-round rookie Brandon Aiyuk is coming off of a hamstring injury, and Jalen Hurd is out for the year with a torn ACL. This could be Sanu’s time to shine, starting this Sunday against the Jets.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Place Tavon Austin On IR

It’s a bad year to be a 49ers wide receiver. Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com reports that Tavon Austin, whom San Francisco signed last month due to injuries to other wideouts, is headed to IR with a knee injury (Twitter link). Austin was signed on the same day as J.J. Nelson, who was recently placed on IR as well.

It’s an especially tough break for Austin, who was performing well in training camp and who may have been a valuable chess piece in head coach Kyle Shanahan‘s offense. Deebo Samuel appears unlikely to be available at the start of the season, first-round rookie Brandon Aiyuk‘s hamstring injury makes his status uncertain, and Jalen Hurd will miss the entire campaign due to an ACL tear, so Austin may actually have been in line for a sizable role.

The good news for the Niners is that Richie James has been activated from the NFI list. James had been dealing with a broken wrist, but it appears that he is on track for Week 1. He has served as the club’s primary return specialist over the last two seasons, and with Austin out of the picture, it seems likely that he will reprise that role in 2020.

The 49ers, though, could still use some depth at WR, and one wonders if the recently-released Mohamed Sanu could spark GM John Lynch‘s interest. As Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk writes, Lynch did not rule out a potential Sanu signing when asked about it this afternoon. Sanu played for Shanahan in Atlanta in 2016, when the latter was working as the Falcons’ OC.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Release Mohamed Sanu

Mohamed Sanu‘s stint with the Patriots has already come to an end. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that New England has released the veteran wideout.

The move comes as a bit of a surprise; it was less than a year ago that the Patriots sent a second-rounder to Atlanta for the receiver. However, the 31-year-old underwhelmed during his eight regular season games (six starts) with New England, hauling in 26 receptions (on 47 targets) for 207 yards and one score. He was also invisible during the Patriots’ playoff loss to the Titans, as he caught a single 11-yard pass.

Sanu landed on PUP to start camp in early August, and reports have indicated that he’s been a step slow throughout the month. Ultimately, the Patriots decided to just move on from the veteran, clearing the team $6.5MM in cap space.

There are plenty of receiver-needy teams throughout the NFL, so it shouldn’t take Sanu very long to find another gig. Plus, he’s only a season removed from a 2018 campaign where he finished with a career-high 838 receiving yards to go along with 66 receptions and four touchdowns.

While the Patriots offense was already going to look a whole lot different in 2020 with Cam Newton at the helm, it was still assumed that Sanu would lead the depth chart along with Julian Edelman. Now, the team will see what they can get from former first-rounder N’Keal Harry, as well as the likes of Damiere Byrd, Gunner Olszewski, and Devin Ross.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Cowboys, Prescott, Patriots, Sanu

Dak Prescott is discussing a long-term deal with the Cowboys, but the patient approach could also pay off for the quarterback. As Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter) notes, Kirk Cousins is in great shape after playing on back-to-back franchise tags with his former club. From 2018-2022, Cousins’ $150MM cash value ranks second overall in the NFL, behind only Aaron Rodgers ($150.95MM). Meanwhile, he tops the chart with his guarantees ($150MM, 100% locked in).

That fact isn’t lost on Prescott, who has rejected offers from the Cowboys in the past. His camp is currently seeking a four-year deal that would make him the league’s highest-paid player on an annual basis with upwards of $35MM per year. The Cowboys, meanwhile, are pushing for a five-year pact.

Here’s more from the East divisions (and, by that, we mean some Pats items):

  •  Mohamed Sanu is “way ahead” of the curve as he returns from ankle surgery, trainer Hilton Alexander tells Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. “I would tell you he’s probably faster, quicker, leaner and in better shape now than prior to the surgery,” Alexander said. “I would say he’s way ahead of any doctor’s knowledge or prediction where he would have been at this point. Way ahead of the curve.” With a healthy Sanu – plus Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and a solid supporting cast – the Pats can stand pat at WR.
  • If the NFL salary cap is reduced next year due to a revenue decrease, it could work to the Patriots‘ advantage. As Tom Curran of NBC Sports explains, the Pats currently have $124MM committed to 55 players in 2021. If the cap falls from $198MM, most teams will be left scrambling to shed expensive contracts. The Patriots, on the other hand, would be in good shape and able to scoop up those available vets.
  • Jamal Adams wants out, but it remains to be seen whether the Jets will trade him. In a recent poll, PFR readers were split on whether Adams will stay or go.

AFC East Notes: Bills, Epenesa, Patriots, Jets

In January, defensive end A.J. Epenesa looked the part of a top-15 pick. But, after a shaky combine performance, his draft stock crashed. That worked out just fine for the Bills, who managed to land the Iowa standout in the second round.

It was a mistake,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said (via Marcel Louis-Jacques of ESPN.com). “This guy is a better player than the 54th pick in the draft, but time will tell. I think the Bills did a hell of a job and I’m happy he’s there.”

For now, Epenesa will play behind bookends Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison (he may also see some extra snaps on the defensive line if Ed Oliver‘s Saturday arrest keeps him off the field in the fall). In the not-too-distant-future, the Bills see Epenesa as a starter who can make a difference on the edge and even feature as a 3-technique tackle in certain packages. Epenesa is disappointed about being left hanging on the phone last month, but he says he’ll use that as extra motivation on his NFL journey.

I feel like I always try to play with a chip on my shoulder and give myself a little extra motivation. I was number 54; there were 53 people picked in front of me,” Epenesa said. “Yeah, it gets me fired up and I want to be able to go out there and prove to people that they shouldn’t have doubted [me].

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is out of his walking boot, according to NFL.com’s Mike Giardi (on Twitter). Sanu joined the Patriots via midseason trade with the Falcons last year, but an ankle injury in his third game with New England hampered him throughout the year. The veteran went under the knife earlier this year and now appears to be on track for a healthy return. Sanu is under contract for one more season at $6.5MM, a reasonable sum considering his ability. In theory, they could cut him, but it would be a surprise since they gave up a second-round pick for him less than a year ago.
  • The Jets have serious interest in free agent cornerback Logan Ryan, but as of late last week, they have not put a formal offer on the table for him, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY hears. Meanwhile, the rival Dolphins may be a surprise suitor for his services. For his part, Ryan says he’d be down to join Gang Green…or any NFL team besides the Titans.

Patriots WR Mohamed Sanu To Undergo Surgery

The Patriots traded a second-rounder pick to Atlanta for receiver Mohamed Sanu in advance of last year’s deadline in the hopes that he could spark the club’s sagging vertical game. That did not happen, as Sanu suffered a high ankle sprain during a punt return in his third game with New England, and he was not the same after that (just one game prior, he tallied 10 catches for 81 yards and a TD in a loss to Baltimore).

Unfortunately, Sanu will require surgery on his ankle, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). The hope was that the injury would heal on its own, but instead Sanu will have to go under the knife. There is not yet a timetable for his recovery, though it seems fair to expect that he will be at full strength in time for training camp.

Regardless of who plays quarterback for the Pats next year, they are widely expected to add a couple of pass catchers in free agency and/or the draft. But a healthy Sanu, along with a year of growth from 2019 first-rounder N’Keal Harry, would go a long way towards improving the club’s overall offensive output.

Sanu is under contract through 2020 and is due a $6.5MM salary this season, though the Pats could clear that entire figure off its books by cutting him. However, $6.5MM seems like a reasonable figure given Sanu’s potential production, and the team would hate to have given up a second-rounder without much of a return on its investment.

In 2018, Sanu turned in perhaps the best performance of his career, catching 66 passes for 838 yards and four TDs with the Falcons. So if he’s healthy, he’s still capable of being a key contributor.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Sanu, Brown, Bears, Lock

The Patriots‘ revolving receiver cast may be set for more adjustments. Mohamed Sanu may well be battling a high ankle sprain, according to Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston. While that is not confirmed, the recent trade acquisition did not practice Wednesday and is listed on New England’s injury report. A high ankle sprain would stand to sideline Sanu for multiple games. The Pats have cycled through numerous receiver combinations this season, with Julian Edelman being the only constant. Phillip Dorsett is in the Pats’ concussion protocol, meaning Edelman’s supporting cast against the Cowboys may be fronted by rookies N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers.

Here is the latest from around the NFL, moving first to a player not currently in the league.

  • Antonio Brown launched a countersuit against Britney Taylor, the first of two women to make sexual misconduct claims against the free agent wide receiver. Taylor filed a civil suit against Brown earlier this year, alleging sexual assault, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports Brown’s case will center around defamation and interference with NFL contract and endorsement opportunities. Brown remains hopeful the NFL will clear him soon; he met with the league last week. But a recent report gave Brown a long-odds chance of playing again this season.
  • Mitchell Trubisky was a full participant at Bears practice Wednesday, despite being removed from Sunday night’s game with a hip injury. Matt Nagy said he does not intend to bench his starter and plans to play him this week against the Giants. “We want him to be out there this week as the starter,” Nagy said, via J.J. Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago. “I’m hoping that’s the case. … These types of injuries, you get to a point where they are literally day to day and it becomes about where you’re at with the pain and how we manage that.”
  • Brandon Allen has helped spark the Broncos‘ offense, but the team would stand to benefit from Drew Lock debuting soon. Vic Fangio added an interesting stance Wednesday, indicating he does not think it’s “vitally important” the rookie passer plays this season, via Mike Klis of 9News. However, the Broncos do plan to activate Lock from IR either next week or in Week 14, per Klis. Denver selected Lock in Round 2 but saw its Joe Flacco investment fail, leading to more uncertainty at a long-troublesome position for the franchise. The Broncos could again be linked to top quarterbacks in the 2020 draft, just as they were in 2018 and ’19.
  • One of the Falcons‘ IR-return slots will go toward a punter. Longtime punter Matt Bosher returned to practice, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). Atlanta’s ninth-year punter cannot return to action until Week 13.
  • After placing fullback Nick Bawden on IR, the Lions worked out several fullbacks. Tommy Bohanon, Derrick Coleman, Tre Madden, Aaron Ripkowski auditioned for the Lions, per Sirius XM’s Adam Caplan (on Twitter).

AFC East Notes: Pats, Gostkowski, Jets, Bell

Mohamed Sanu joined the Patriots in late October, but the veteran receiver believed he was going to land with the organization much earlier. As Jeff Howe of The Athletic writes, the Rutgers product expected to be drafted by New England during the 2012 draft, and he later opted for a lucrative payday from the Falcons when he hit free agency in 2016. Now, during his ninth year in the NFL, he’s finally on the Patriots.

“The draft, free agency, and now it happened – it’s kind of been like a long time coming, like it was almost meant to happen,” Sanu told Jeff Howe of The Athletic.

The 30-year-old also discussed his chances of sticking with New England for his entire career.

“That’d be cool,” Sanu said. “You never know. I just go where everything falls, take it day by day. Whatever happens, happens. I do my part, do my best, be a great teammate and do my part, whenever I can to help this team win…Now that I’m here, it’s time to go to work. I’m very excited.”

Sanu had a standout game for the Patriots during last night’s loss, hauling in 10 receptions for 81 yards and one touchdown.

Let’s check out some more notes from the AFC East…

  • Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski underwent successful hip surgery and was back at the team’s facilities last week. Meanwhile, it was revealed that third-round offensive lineman Yodny Cajuste will likely miss the entire season as he recovers from quadriceps surgery. Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia told reporters (including ESPN’s Mike Reiss) that the rookie would likely have a redshirt season: “That’s probably a pretty good way of approaching or saying it. He’s probably not ready to do anything and probably won’t be until next year. That’s the way I see it.”
  • Elandon Roberts has had to fill in at fullback for the Patriots following injuries to James Develin and Jakob Johnson. However, the linebacker isn’t planning on making a permanent position change; Reiss writes that Roberts is still a “full-time participant in defensive and linebacker meetings.” While the 25-year-old indicated that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win, he views the fullback position as an “extra” priority.
  • Jets running back Le’Veon Bell is set to undergo an MRI on his injured knee, coach Adam Gase told reporters (via SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano on Twitter). The coach also acknowledged that he’s uncertain when the veteran suffered the injury, as Bell only reveled the ailment this morning.
  • While Jets cornerback Darryl Roberts has love for “the loyal fans,” he wasn’t too happy with those who criticized the team following their loss to the Dolphins yesterday. You can check out the Instagram rant for yourself thanks to Joseph Staszewski of the New York Post.

49ers Also Pursued Mohamed Sanu

Some key wide receiver dominoes fell Tuesday, and the 49ers were involved in both. Prior to acquiring Emmanuel Sanders from the Broncos, the 49ers were “heavily” in on Mohamed Sanu, according to Matt Barrows of The Athletic (subscription required).

The Patriots ended up outbidding the 49ers for the Falcon wideout, sending a second-round pick to Atlanta. San Francisco already unloaded its 2020 second-rounder, sending it to Kansas City for Dee Ford in March. Sanu is 30 and signed through 2020; Sanders is 32 and in a contract year.

While Sanders has accomplished more than Sanu, it’s understandable why the 49ers pursued the latter. Sanu’s first Atlanta season came when Kyle Shanahan was running a historically great Falcons offense, which led the team to Super Bowl LI. The third-year 49ers HC was seeking a “big-bodied” wideout in the offseason, per Barrows. Sanu would have filled that role better than Sanders, who ended up costing the 49ers 2020 third- and fourth-round picks.

San Francisco is now without second-, third- and fourth-round picks in next year’s draft. But the 49ers exited Week 7 with their leading wide receiver (Marquise Goodwin) having totaled 181 receiving yards. Sanders, who has 367, should be able to assimilate quickly after playing in ex-49er OC Rich Scangarello‘s offense.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.