Chalk this one up under interesting but probably moot at this stage: The Falcons evidently shopped Mohamed Sanu around earlier this offseason, though we do not know how seriously they did so.
That comes to us via Michael Lombardi’s podcast and is worth noting because Lombardi, despite a distinctly mixed track record as a personnel man and current evaluator of NFL talent from the outside, remains tightly tied in with NFL front offices and coaching staffs and thus would presumably have this on good authority. Adjust your the grains of salt you take this with according to how you feel about Lombardi.
“Sanu was talked about being traded. He makes almost $7 million. I think there was one team that was going to trade for him and I think they wanted a third round pick for Sanu. And yet, internally, and within the Falcons organization, the Falcons felt like well we really need Sanu, we’re a veteran team. I need, the head coach, I need to win this year. I don’t want to trade away the guy.”
A third round pick is both a reasonable request from the Falcons, given Sanu’s skill and production in Atlanta, and an asking price other teams are unlikely to meet given the value of young, inexpensive players and the way teams use picks as ammo to move up. It’s worth wondering whether the rumored move back into the third round would have featured Sanu, but it’s ultimately moot because the team did not make any trades and it appears unlikely that #12 is going anywhere. With the team at least sort of in win-now world, it makes total sense that they wouldn’t be keen to ship out veteran players, especially those with value.
Why would the Falcons even be interested in doing this? One anticipates that with Calvin Ridley entering his second year, a tight end-focused coordinator and ex-coordinator/current tight end coach potentially finding more opportunities for Austin Hooper and his merry backups, and the team’s stated desire to do a better job running the football, Sanu’s target share in this offense may stand to shrink. The Falcons would likely find his blocking skills, sure hands and third down value difficult to replace with one guy, but chances are they’d have used a combination of Justin Hardy and Marcus Green had they gone this route. Lombardi noted on his podcast that the team has big plans for Ridley, as you’d expect.
That said, Sanu is coming off another durable, effective season where he was third on the team in receptions, second in yards, fourth in touchdown grabs and even second in touchdown passes. This offense has all the personnel it needs to be elite, but removing a key cog like Sanu from the mix would seem to dent that fearsome group, and thus it’s not stunning that the Falcons ultimately decided against it.
For now, this is just something to file away, because it seems unlikely at this stage of the offseason that Sanu will be moved. But it’ll be worth monitoring his role in the offense as time goes on, especially with a $7.9 million cap hit and $1.4 million dead money number in the final year of his contract in 2020, to see if it indicates a future move.