Mohamed Sanu has become something of a scapegoat since the New England Patriots’ season ended prematurely in wild-card weekend.
The Patriots traded a second-round pick for Sanu at the trade deadline, and after seeing him struggle to catch up and catch on in eight games, a vocal contingent of fans who parrot radio hosts want him gone.
As an aside, there is no more tired noun than that F-word around Boston right now.
Sanu was expected to fix the Patriots’ offensive issues after coming over from the Falcons. He seemed like a perfect fit, quarterback Tom Brady was excited to have him around and Sanu was confident upon entering Gillette Stadium. So, bing-bang-boom, right? He’d catch a bunch of passes, move the chains and provide a jolt, right?
It didn’t work out that way. Sanu was asked to play receiver and return punts, and in that latter duty, he suffered an ankle injury, missed a game and never quite looked the same. He totaled 26 catches on 47 targets for 207 yards with a touchdown in eight games. Ten catches and 81 of those yards came in his second contest with the Patriots.
Sanu dropped four passes, struggled to pick up first downs and looked a little lost at times. It didn’t go well.
But that’s not to say the Patriots should simply cut bait with Sanu to free up cap space. Releasing or trading Sanu would amount in $6.5 million worth of cap space — and make for a completely wasted second-round pick.
That amount of money doesn’t go very far these days while signing receivers. Willie Snead averages $6 million per season, Taylor Gabriel averages $6.5 million, Albert Wilson and Paul Richardson average $8 million and Marqise Lee averages $8.5 million.
Sanu was a perfectly good receiver in his previous two stops before arriving in New England. He was on pace for 75 catches and over 700 yards with Atlanta before getting traded. He caught 66 passes for 838 yards with four touchdowns in 2018. Outside of his ankle, Sanu didn’t change. Only his setting did.
It’s understandably much easier to blame Sanu than it is to blame anyone in the Patriots’ organization for the receiver’s shortcomings. But isn’t it worthwhile to see if he can be more dependable and productive with a full offseason in the scheme? Wouldn’t that make a whole lot more sense than cutting a guy because he didn’t single-handedly fix a floundering offense? Rather than start over with someone new, why not let Sanu build on what he learned last season?
At the very least, there should be less pressure on Sanu to perform next season. Sanu essentially was asked to be the Patriots’ No. 2 target in the 2019 season. If New England adds a starting-caliber tight end, another wide receiver and 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry progresses, then that will spread out targets and take a load off of Sanu.
If it wasn’t the ankle, then it’s unclear what caused Sanu to struggle. But he was good with the Bengals and Falcons, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t reach that same level of play with the Patriots after a full offseason.