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Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders reportedly leaving 49ers for Saints

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Emmanuel Sanders came at a cost to help the 49ers’ Super Bowl run, and two mid-round draft picks were not outlandish in last October’s trade.

Not with the plays he was bound to make, the mentorship he would give young receivers and the fifth-round draft pick the 49ers also got in return from the Denver Broncos.

Sanders will not be making a 49ers encore. Instead, he will be catching passes for the New Orleans Saints, after agreeing Friday night on a two-year, $16 million deal, ESPN first reported.

Sanders cost the 49ers third- and fourth-round draft picks when the Denver Broncos traded him Oct. 22. The 49ers also got a fifth-round pick in the deal.

Now the 49ers are in the market again for a No. 1-caliber wide receiver, although Deebo Samuel certainly showed such capacity as his rookie year progressed. Kendrick Bourne will also be counted on more than ever, and he drew a $3.3 million tender as a restricted free agent after producing a team-high six touchdown catches all of last season.

With the Nos. 13 and 31 picks in next month’s draft, the 49ers could swoop in for Sanders’ replacement in what draft analysts see as a flood of wide receiver options, and the 49ers have not been shy about using high picks on wide receivers since coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch arrived in 2017.

For now, the 49ers are hoping Trent Taylor (foot) and Jalen Hurd (back) can come back strong after missing last season with injuries. And what of Dante Pettis and Marquise Goodwin? Shanahan said at the NFL scouting combine he hopes Pettis goes on a “mission” to improve this offseason, and that Goodwin is too good to release. Goodwin’s April 1 salary guarantee could prompt the 49ers to think otherwise.

Sanders recorded 36 catches for 502 yards and three touchdowns, third on the 49ers behind tight end George Kittle and Samuel. In the playoffs, Sanders had just five receptions for 71 yards. He nearly caught the first postseason touchdown in his 10-year career with 1½ minutes to go in the Super Bowl but Jimmy Garoppolo’s potential 49-yard touchdown pass was overthrown.

Sanders sparked a Dec. 8 shootout that the 49ers won in New Orleans. He had a 75-yard touchdown reception among his seven catches for 157 yards, and he also threw a touchdown pass to Raheem Mostert in the 48-46 victory that proved pivotal in the 49ers’ bid for the NFC’s No. 1 seed.

Since free agency talks opened Monday, Sanders also spoke with the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported. The Saints’ deal could be worth up to $19 million if incentives are reached.

Sanders, in a Facebook Live broadcast Thursday, said he enjoyed the youthful vibe among the 49ers’ receivers he mentored late last season, and he spoke highly of the 49ers’ hierarchy.

“It was cool. I love Kyle, to be around his energy and realness,” Sanders said. “It’s a reason we went all the way to the Super Bowl and a lot of it had to do with him and John Lynch.”

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