SANTA CLARA (CBS SF/AP) — Looking to bolster their wide receiver corp, the San Francisco 49ers Tuesday sent a couple draft picks to Denver in exchange for veteran Emmanuel Sanders.
Along with Sanders, the Broncos sent a fifth-round pick in next year’s draft to the 49ers in exchange for third- and fourth-round picks in 2020, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the teams hadn’t announced the trade.
“Emmanuel is a passionate football player whose toughness and competitive nature have helped him become a dynamic playmaker in this league,” said 49ers General Manager John Lynch. “He possesses a number of qualities, on and off the field, that we value in our players. His familiarity in a similar offensive system will allow for a quick transition. We are excited to add Emmanuel to our roster and look forward to seeing him positively impact our team.”
Sanders escaped what had become wide receiver purgatory with the Broncos, but still admitted it was hard to leave Denver.
“It’s hard. Anytime you break or you leave a place, it’s tough,” Sanders said as he left Broncos headquarters while his ex-teammates practiced behind him. “We definitely had a great run out here in Denver. I had a lot of great times. Obviously, all good things come to an end. Looking forward to getting out to San Fran and showcasing my talent, meeting the guys, hopefully add my explosiveness, my capabilities to their system and trying to win.”
The 32-year-old veteran may have found another utopia in the Bay Area.
“Yeah, we kind of run a similar offense. Just talking to Rich (Scangarello), he was pretty much telling me it’s the same offense — different concepts, but I’ll be able to pick it up easy. Waiting on them to call me right now, see when I’m going to get out there and get my physical and get acclimated with the system,” Sanders said.
Sanders caught 30 passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns this season as he made a successful return from surgery on both ankles. He quickly found a rapport with new quarterback Joe Flacco, who followed Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler and Case Keenum in the years after Manning retired.
But second-year pro Courtland Sutton, a fellow SMU alum, emerged as the No. 1 receiver in Denver this season. He has 36 catches for 564 yards and four TDs.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday that he believed the 49ers had the answers at receiver on the roster but opted to make a move anyway for a proven veteran like Sanders.
The 49ers have been seeking a No. 1 receiver since the offseason when they looked into trying to trade for Odell Beckham Jr. before he was sent from the New York Giants to Cleveland instead.
San Francisco spent second- and third-round picks on Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd but a top-flight receiver remained one of the few holes on a mostly complete roster.
The Niners rank last in the NFL with just 49 catches from their wideouts and are second to last with 679 yards receiving. Samuel leads all the team’s wide receivers with 15 catches for 168 yards and Marquise Goodwin is the only other wideout with more than 10 catches.
Last year’s second-round pick Dante Pettis has struggled with only nine catches for 83 yards, while Hurd and slot receiver Trent Taylor have been on injured reserve all season with injuries and aren’t expected back for at least a few more weeks.