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NFL Free Agency: San Francisco 49ers Star Emmanuel Sanders Signs With Saints

SANTA CLARA (CBS SF/AP) -- The San Francisco 49ers lost a key offensive weapon during its run to the Super Bowl when veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders signed a 2-year contract with the New Orleans Saints on Saturday.

Sanders came to the 49ers in a mid-season trade with the Denver Broncos and provided a veteran anchor to the San Francisco's young receiver corp and a trustworthy target for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. He caught 36 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns in the 49ers stretch drive to the Super Bowl.

During the playoffs he added five catches for 71 yards

The 5-foot-11 Sanders, who turns 33 next week, signed a 2-year reportedly worth about $16 million with bonuses that could push the total value as high as $19 million.

The Saints struggled last season to find consistent production from a receiver other than All-Pro Michael Thomas, who caught an NFL-record 149 passes for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns.

Free agent Ted Ginn Jr., who turns 35 next month, ranked second among Saints receivers with 30 catches — behind running back Alvin Kamara (81), tight end Jared Cook (43) and running back Latavius Murray (34).

The Saints hoped to get more production from 2018 third-round draft choice Tre'Quan Smith, but he struggled with an ankle injury that sidelined him for seven full games and parts of two others, and had just 18 catches for 234 yards and five TDs.

New Orleans may well have missed out on a top-two seeding in the past NFC playoffs because of their inability to defend Sanders in a 48-46 loss to San Francisco in early December.

Sanders caught seven passes in that game for 157 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown. He also threw a 35-yard touchdown pass on a trick play. When the playoffs began a month later, New Orleans was seeded third despite being in a three-way tie with San Francisco and Green Bay for the NFC's best record at 13-3. The Saints then lost their payoff opener to Minnesota.

Sanders entered the NFL as a third-round draft choice by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010. He helped Peyton Manning and the 2015 Denver Broncos win a Super Bowl. He was named to the Pro Bowl with Denver in the 2014 and 2016 seasons. The Broncos traded Sanders to San Francisco before last season.

He now joins New Orleans with 601 career catches for 7,893 yards and 42 touchdowns.

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