Sanu gives the Patriots an inside target, especially on third down, to help take pressure off top receiver Julian Edelman. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Sanu, 30, is in his eighth season and has 33 receptions for 313 yards and one touchdown in 2019.
Sanu told ESPN's Josina Anderson on Tuesday night that it was "bittersweet" to leave Atlanta, but that he's "excited to build a relationship" with the Patriots and their fans.
"I'm ready if they want me to go," Sanu said of the Patriots' game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. "We'll see what the plan is."
With Edelman (ribs), fellow starter Josh Gordon (knee) and No. 3 target Phillip Dorsett (hamstring) all on the injury report in recent weeks, Sanu provides veteran insurance at a position where the Patriots are still adjusting following the release of Antonio Brown in September.
Undrafted free agents Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski have helped fill some of that void, but now high expectations on them will lessen. First-round draft pick N'Keal Harry is eligible to return from injured reserve for the Nov. 3 game against the Baltimore Ravens.
"We're working through that," coach Bill Belichick said of Sanu during his weekly appearance on sports radio WEEI. "We'll put him in and see how it goes. He's a talented player, he's got a lot of experience, and he's done different things. So we'll see how it all fits for us."
A source told ESPN that Sanu is "good" with the trade and excited to try to win a Super Bowl. He tweeted his thanks for his time in Atlanta.
I appreciate everything the organization has done for my family & I. Mr. Blank, TD, Coach Q, & everyone through the organization, I am forever grateful for the opportunity. To my Teammates & fan y'all know how I feel about y'all love y'all to death. #ThankYou— Mohamed Sanu Sr. (@Mo_12_Sanu) October 22, 2019
The Patriots have long had an affinity for Sanu, who played at Rutgers alongside current Patriots defensive backs Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, and entered the NFL as a third-round draft choice of the Cincinnati Bengals. New England had been trying to trade for Sanu since before the draft, according to Schefter.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady responded to a Sanu tweet that featured a favorite rallying cry of both Brady and the Pats.
See you soon. https://t.co/2QgSuWbTXB— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) October 22, 2019
A second-round pick is a significant price to pay, but one reason the Patriots might have felt comfortable doing so is that Sanu's contract extends through the 2020 season. The Patriots will pay Sanu a prorated portion of his $6 million base salary in 2019, and Sanu is scheduled to earn a base salary of $6.5 million in 2020.
In terms of draft capital, the Patriots are also projected to receive two third-round compensatory draft picks in 2020 for the free-agency losses of Trey Flowers and Trent Brown. If that's the way it unfolds, the Patriots would have a first-round pick and three third-rounders on the first two days of the draft. Compensatory picks are slotted in at the end of the round.
The Patriots also signed veteran Justin Bethel, a three-time Pro Bowler as a special teamer. Bethel was released on Monday by the Baltimore Ravens despite having led the team in special-teams snaps, with the decision made because the club was at risk of losing a 2020 fourth-round compensatory draft pick if he remained on the roster.
Bethel had signed a two-year, $4 million deal with the Ravens in the offseason. He replaces Jordan Richards in New England, as Richards was released Wednesday in a corresponding move.