(Updated 7 a.m.: See below)
Roddy White's role in the offense was reduced last season and he fell from 80 catches in 2014 to 43 in 2015. The Falcons were so anxious to cut the greatest wide receiver in franchise history that they'll carry $3.775 million of dead money on the salary cap.
Mohamed Sanu fell from 56 catches in 2014 to 33 with Cincinnati last season. Were the Falcons turned off? No. They were so anxious to sign him that they gave him a $32.5 million contract, including $14 million in guarantees, a nice raise for a guy who made $1.5 million in 2015.
This, for a No. 2 wide receiver.
Help me understand this.
I know some folks were stunned Wednesday when the Falcons paid so much for a starting center in Alex Mack (five years, $47.5 million). But in the team's defense, Mack is one of the game's premier centers (three Pro Bowls), he plays a position the Falcons have floundered at for three seasons and he wasn't making far less than that in Cleveland (opting out two years into a five-year, $42 million deal).
But the money the Falcons are giving to Sanu smacks of desperation. They're weak at wide receiver because they lost Harry Douglas to Tennessee in free agency two years ago, Leonard Hankerson proved to be a horrible replacement and they chose to release White after reducing his role in Kyle Shanahan's offense.
I'm not suggesting Sanu is a mediocre receiver. He's above average. He had 56 receptions with an average of 14.1 yards per catch and five touchdowns in 2014. He also can be used in different roles, be it running reverses or lining up as a quarterback in the wild cat formation. But there is nothing to suggest he is worth this kind of money -- money that the team could have been spent on a player to strengthen the defense in general and the pass rush in particular.
And remember, it's still Julio Jones' show on offense.
With the signing following the generally unpopular decision to cut White, there will be significant pressure on Sanu to live up to this contract and on Shanahan, Matt Ryan and the Falcons to make this work.
Count me among the skeptics.
UPDATE : NFL.com "Around The League 's Gregg Rosenthal wrote a column titled, "Seven riskiest signings of free agency so far." Guess who tops the list? Or is tied at the top, anyway. Rosenthal lists Sanu and fellow former Cincinnati wide receiver Marvin Jones as 1 and 1A on the list. (Jones was signed by Detroit to replace the retiring Calvin Johnson.) Also on the list is new Miami defensive end Mario Williams (whom I wrote about here).
Rosenthal wrote that Sanu and Jones "benefited from a razor thin free-agent wide receiver market" and called Sanu "essentially the fifth receiver in Cincinnati last year and did not quite measure up when he was asked to start while replacing Jones in 2014. He didn't top 500 yards in any other season. Ultimately, he is a solid underneath receiver with flexibility that is getting paid like a top-level starter. His contract (five years for $32 million and $14 million guaranteed) positions him as a No. 2 wideout."
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