Is Sanders missing piece for Saints like he was for 49ers? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
A year ago, the 49ers kicked into buyer mode to add a missing piece to their offense at the NFL trade deadline.
In retrospect, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan wonders if the team would have advanced to the Super Bowl without the midseason trade to acquire veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders from the Denver Broncos.
Now, Sanders is making his mark with the New Orleans Saints. The 49ers will face Sanders and the Saints on Sunday in Week 10.
During his time with the 49ers, Sanders made important contributions on and off the field. He offered a much-needed dose of veteran leadership to the group of young wide receivers to go along with his on-field production.
Saints coach Sean Payton said as he researched Sanders before free agency he learned about all the benefits Sanders provided away from the field during his time with the 49ers and Broncos.
"One of the challenges sometimes in free agency is not just what you see on film, but all the other elements to it," Payton said Wednesday in a conference call with Bay Area reporters.
"He's one of those guys who doesn't have a lot of bad days. He's kind of upbeat. He brings that leadership to the room."
The 49ers figured they would be renting Sanders through the remainder of last season after acquiring him and a fifth-round draft pick from the Denver Broncos for third- and fourth-round selections.
The 49ers did not have the salary-cap flexibility to make a serious bid to re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent. Shanahan said it was one of the most difficult decisions the club had to make last offseason.
Sanders, 33, signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the New Orleans.
Michael Thomas has been the star among the Saints' wide receivers. But Sanders has stepped in and made a significant impact for quarterback Drew Brees while Thomas has missed six games due to injuries and a one-game suspension for punching a teammate.
Sanders has started two of the six games in which he has appeared, but he has totaled 30 receptions for 342 yards and three touchdowns. The Saints lead the NFC South with a 6-2 record.
The 49ers were unbeaten at the time they traded for Sanders last season. They needed another wide receiver to join Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne. Sanders stepped into the starting lineup and caught 36 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns in 10 regular-season games.
In the 49ers' 48-46 victory over the Saints last year in Week 12, Sanders caught seven passes for 157 yards and a touchdown. Shanahan has been reminded of Sanders' contribution this week as he watches last year's game film.
"Just watching him and seeing what he did for us in that game last year was unbelievable and he's doing an unbelievable job for them, also," Shanahan said.