If it were up to Kyle Shanahan, Emmanuel Sanders would already have a new contract with the 49ers.
The head coach of the 49ers spoke to reporters this week in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine, and testified to how important the veteran wide receiver was in 2019 for the San Francisco passing game.
Once the Niners added Sanders in a trade from Denver in October, the passing attack improved markedly.
"I do not think we would have got (to) where we got without Emmanuel," Shanahan told Matt Barrows of The Athletic. "I would love (more) than anything to have Emmanuel back. Bad. But we’ve got to see how that all plays out, too.
"When you look at all our young receivers, we’ve invested in those guys the last two years."
Sanders, 32, can be an unrestricted free agent this spring, and there should be interest in his services from other NFL teams because Sanders had a terrific stint for the 49ers. The 10-year pro played 10 regular-season games with the 49ers and caught 36 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns, then added five catches for 71 yards in three postseason games.
Sanders has been ranked among the best wide receivers in this year’s potential veteran free-agent class.
But, the 49ers have to determine where best to spend their money this offseason. As Kyle Madson of USA Today’s NinersWire wrote this week, the 49ers have invested in young wideouts by drafting Deebo Samuel, Jalen Hurd and Dante Pettis over the past two years and also have Marquise Goodwin and Kendrick Bourne.
Wrote Madson: "Keeping Sanders probably pushes out one of the younger players on the roster, especially if he winds up commanding a hearty, multiyear contract on the open market."
Yet there’s no doubt Sanders has a big fan in Shanahan. That could figure prominently in the decision.