Written By: Pat Pryor @PryorGraphics
While Bill Belichick is undisputedly one of the best coaches of all time, there is a debate amongst analysts on whether or not his great coaching makes up for some shaky moves as GM. His title is head coach, but he holds all the power needed over signings, trades, and drafting to make him a de facto general manager. No one is debating whether he's made some great moves over the years, like picking up Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss for a fourth-round pick, and in that same offseason, pairing him up with Wes Welker after giving the Dolphins a second and seventh.
However, some of the biggest moves he’s masterminded haven’t worked out so well. Most recently, controversy surrounded trading for Mohammed Sanu, the former Falcon, who Belichick would give up a second-round pick for.
Starting his career with the Bengals, Sanu was inconsistent but had quality play at times. In his best season, he had 790 yards and five touchdowns, but the next he would only have 394 yards and didn’t see the endzone at all. Despite this, the Falcons would give him a 5-year deal, worth 32.5 million dollars. In Atlanta Sanu was a reliable target for Matt Ryan, never dropping below 650 yards, 4 touchdowns, or 59 catches. While he was a good number 2 to top-notch receiver Julio Jones, nobody would resist a second-round pick for him.
At the time the trade was needed. The Patriots lacked weapons for Tom Brady, who would play the whole season with uncertainty surrounding his future in New England. They added Antonio Brown early on, only to cut him due to personal controversy a week after he was signed. The day after trading for Sanu, Josh Gordon was placed on injured reserve, and later waived. Despite these circumstances, a second was still a large price to pay for Sanu. Playing through injuries, and in a struggling offense, Sanu only amassed 26 receptions and 226 yards through 8 games. On September 2nd, they would release him, a month after activating him from the PUP list. He’s a seasoned veteran, and at 31 can still have several productive seasons. Here is a list of teams that might be interested in him.
1. Washington Football Team
Despite Alex Smith’s miraculous recovery from a horrific leg injury and later infection, Dwayne Haskins has been announced to be the starter for the Washington Football Team come week 1. With this comes questions about Haskin’s weapons. Terry McLaurin came out of the third round last year and dominated, grabbing 58 catches for 919 yards in just 14 games. They also added Antonio Gandy-Golden, the fourth-round rookie from the Liberty Flames. They also have journeyman Dontrelle Inman, who has just 65 receptions over the past three years with the Bears, Colts, and Chargers. They have receivers that can fill roles and get yards, like 2019 UDFA Steven Sims Jr, and 2018 Mr. Irrelevant Trey Quinn, but McLaurin is the only receiver that the coaching staff can rely on to be productive. There are high hopes for Gandy-Golden in the capital, but an undisclosed injury combined with some mental mistakes in camp could delay his development just a few weeks. Washington needs a productive wide receiver, and one with a lot of experience to help McLaurin and Gandy-Golden develop would be perfect. Luckily for them, Sanu has hit the open market and checks all their boxes. They have about $30 million in cap space, and after being released from his $6.5 million a year contract, he’ll probably be expecting something under that, but not too far off. A two or three-year contract would be perfect, as he’ll be the best veteran presence on the receiving corps, allowing guys to develop under him, and if he performs well, he’ll have an easy time finding a final contract in a new home, or maybe even staying in Washington to finish out his career. Based on their needs, what he brings to the table, and the financial situation, the Washington Football Team jumps out as a front-runner to pick up Mohammed Sanu.
2. San Francisco 49ers
If Mohammed Sanu wants to go to a contender, he doesn’t need to look any further than the defending NFC champions. His old offensive coordinator, Kyle Shannahan, is in charge of the team with one of the best defenses in the league, and an offense that is no stranger to putting up big numbers. The 49ers top receiver is Deebo Samuel, who came out of the second round and was electric in the 49ers road to the Super Bowl. However, he broke his foot during the offseason in June, and while he may be cleared by game-time next week, he hasn’t had much time to prepare. Brandon Aiyuk, their first-round selection this year, injured his hamstring late August, and can also play week 1, but will naturally have a lighter workload. Their best threat is their top 2 tight end George Kittle, as the two-time Pro-Bowler dominated last year. However, they’ll need more than him in an ever-improving NFC West. With Jalen Hurd out for the year, and Dante Pettis not living up to his 2018 second-round pick expectations, there’s no reason Mohammed Sanu couldn’t find a spot. In the playoffs last year, the 49ers were known for a dynamic run game that Shanahan designed, which tore up the Vikings and Packers, but Jimmy Garrapolo is going to have to prove he can run the team as well. It’s not far-fetched to say that Sanu could be a nice fit to help this team get around a Super Bowl Slump, and improve a developing receiving corps. They only have 8 million dollars in cap space, and Sanu can likely take some more than half of that, but he might just be the piece that they need to compete with the high powered New Orleans and Tampa Bay offenses for the NFC. Experience with Kyle Shannahan, and an open spot just waiting for him, Sanu can hop on a plane to San Fran to compete for a Super Bowl.
3. Miami Dolphins
Despite playing in a now Tom Brady-less AFC East, the Dolphins aren’t expected to compete with the Patriots and Bills for the division title, but they also aren’t looking at another top 5 pick. Devante Parker and Mike Gesicki hold the top spots at wide receiver and tight end respectively, but after that, there isn’t a lot of depth. UDFA Preston Williams stepped up last year, however, their next two options, Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns are both opting out due to Covid-19 concerns. If Sanu wants somewhere that he’ll play a big part, Miami is definitely a top target. He’ll either be assisting Ryan Fitzpatrick set them up for a mediocre year, or help Tua Tagavoila develop with a steady target on the field. Out of the teams so far, he would get the best stats and production in Miami, as they have the least established corps. If he’s looking for a short term deal to build his resume for a larger contract to end his career, the Dolphins can provide that. It’ll likely be a changing quarterback system, but he will possibly benefit the most in the sunshine state.
New York Jets: With Brashad Perriman and Denzel Mims, Sam Darnold should step up this year and could use Sanu as someone to help hold together the young offense.
Philadelphia Eagles: With the recent Jalen Reagor injury, combined with uncertainty for several seasons in the Eagles receiver corps, they could definitely use his veteran presence.
Minnesota Vikings: After tight end Kyle Rudolph, wide receivers Adam Thielen and rookie Justin Jefferson, Minnesota’s pass-catching talent drops off quite a bit, and Sanu would be a welcome presence to assist Kirk Cousins earn his money this year.