Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Th 49ers are 10 days away from opening the season against the Arizona Cardinals and two days away from sending in their roster cuts. But on Wednesday, the New England Patriots released Mohamed Sanu, a former Kyle Shanahan asset during his time with the Falcons in Atlanta.
Last year, before Emmanuel Sanders and a fifth-round pick were acquired from the Denver Broncos for a third and fourth-round pick, Sanu was nearly the team’s choice. The price eventually got too high for their liking, as the Patriots bumped their offer up to a second-round pick and the 49ers, luckily, got Sanders instead of Sanu. But it’s hard to imagine that interest is gone, especially for a team which has been hit hard with wide receiver injuries and has had a rotating cast of veteran wide receivers brought in.
Sanu had a difficult time with New England, catching 26 passes for 207 yards and 1 TD in eight regular season games, and one reception for 11 yards in that infamous playoff game against the Tennessee Titans. He was due $6.5 million this season which was not guaranteed, likely the defining factor in his release.
Sanders, meanwhile, had 53 receptions for 502 yards and 3 TD in the regular season and five receptions for 71 yards in the playoffs.
General manager John Lynch joined the Murph and Mac show on Thursday and was promptly asked about Sanu. He walked a tightrope expertly, both complimenting the team’s wide receiver group as well as Sanu, acknowledging there could be interest. Here’s his full answer:
“We’re actually pretty pleased with our with our depth at wide receiver and it may be something where early on in the season we’re not at full strength, but we like the way the group has come around,” Lynch said. “Sanu has been released so I am free to talk about him. He’s an excellent football player, one that has history with our staff and so I think when a good football player becomes available, we’re always interested and we’re always looking to see if they can help. But I will say that we’re probably more comfortable than most people think at the wide receiver wide receiver position. What we’ve seen throughout this offseason, you know, leaves us leaves us really excited about the group so it has to fit and we’ll see where that goes… I think we feel a little stronger than maybe the outside world believes we should or do.”
Richie James Jr. (wrist fracture), according to a report by Mike Garafolo, is going to be activated today ahead of schedule, but it still remains to be seen whether he has enough time to make the roster.
As for Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, their returns will cut it close for Week 1.
“I think we’ll come right down to the game week for those two young men,” Lynch said.
Lynch also seemed to suggest that Ben Garland, as seemed the case with Shanahan’s Wednesday update, that Ben Garland might be too far away in his rehab to return for Week 1, at least in the capacity as a starter.
“Ben Garland was was having a real strong camp and then rolled an ankle,” Lynch said. “That’s another one that’s going to be fluid going down to Week 1. Ben had a decent ankle sprain. He’s working real hard like you would expect an Air Force man to do, tireless in his in his in his want to get back. We’re just not sure it’s going to be 100 percent and you got to be 100 percent to go play or close to it.”
One bit of bad news Lynch provided was that Jason Verrett, who has been unable to avoid injuries in a once-promising career, is hurt again, having sustained a hamstring strain. It’s brutal news for a player who had a solid camp. The 49ers are still waiting to see the severity of the injury, but Lynch pointed to Tim Harris Jr. (and Dontae Johnson, because he’s literally the only other corner) as other options, perhaps meaning Harris will make the roster over Verrett.
Matt Barrows of The Athletic reported, however, that Verrett’s strain is a Grade 1, the least severe variety, which still leaves his status on the 53-man in question, but is far more promising news than a serious strain.
I'm told Jason Verrett's hamstring injury is a Grade 1 (lowest level) strain, so no one is exactly playing a funeral dirge right now. He's coming off a good training camp.
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) September 3, 2020
Two moments of hilarious denials of interest also occurred, when Lynch was asked about a horrible scheme fit in Leonard Fournette, who has since signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and plays a position where the 49ers are stacked.
“We can deny,” a laughing Lynch said. “We didn’t [have interest].”
Something similar took place when he was asked about JaDeveon Clowney, still a free agent. The 49ers have roughly $8.5 million in cap space according to OverTheCap. Lynch pointed to that as making a Clowney signing impossible.
“We’re out of money, he said.”