The San Francisco 49ers made some noise last offseason when they acquired veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin from the Baltimore Ravens. The move was looked upon as simply a good acquisition at first. That move proved to be one that would be a wise move once Michael Crabtree went down due to injury. Boldin assumed the No. 1 receiver role and he flourished in his first year as a 49er. He is now set to become a free agent and it’s only right to wonder whether or not the 49ers should resign him.
Crabtree had previously eliminated a drought of 1,000-yard receivers that dated back to the days of Terrell Owens. Boldin came in and posted a 1,000-yard season of his own, which was the first time that he had done so since 2009 as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. The first game of the season set the tone for 2013 as Boldin garnered 13 receptions for 208 yards and a touchdown. His totals for the 2013 season were 85 receptions, 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns. The momentum carried over to the postseason as he was a major factor in the 49ers divisional round win over the Carolina Panthers. He had eight catches and 136 yards.
Boldin is a key player to bring back, even with the return of Crabtree. If you look at the season, you will see that Colin Kaepernick targeted Boldin 130 times. The highest total of targets that Boldin got was 13, which was in the season opener. The next highest total was nine targets which he was able to get twice, both of these times were after Crabtree came back. That is a clear sign that he fully trusts the veteran receiver. Kaepernick is still in his developmental phase and having a reliable receiver like Boldin is crucial to his continued progress. Boldin is one of those players that is open even when he is covered. Kaepernick can throw the ball in his direction and know that Boldin will do everything that he can to make the catch and if he can’t he will make sure it isn’t intercepted.
The 49ers are very likely to draft a wide receiver in this year’s draft. There are quite a few that can have an impact in different ways. Whoever they select would benefit from having Boldin on their team to mentor them. This would especially be the case with Kelvin Benjamin, a big red zone threat from Florida State. Boldin came from Florida State as well and would provide a solid example of how to be a pro.
Most of the young receivers on the 49ers have leaned on Boldin for advice. Jonathan Baldwin made it his business to seek out Boldin as soon as he got to the 49ers facility. He based that decision on the way his former Kansas City Chiefs teammate, Steve Breaston, talked about how Boldin helped him when they were both on the Cardinals. Another player that seemed to really form a productive relationship with Boldin was Quinton Patton. Boldin described him as a high energy, little brother type of guy that is always on the move. He cracked a smile when he described Patton.
The 49ers should strongly consider resigning Boldin to a deal. The numbers would have to be worked out, but it is easy to say that he was one of the most valuable 49ers in 2013. The return on the investment would be huge from many perspectives. His hard nose, aggressive style of play is very contagious. The team feeds off of it. Boldin will help Kaepernick, he will help take the pressure off of Crabtree and he will provide a strong locker room mentor to any young players. His career is far from over and he would be a great piece to have as the 49ers make another run for the championship in 2014.