Since falling just short in the Super Bowl, the 49ers have had a busy offseason of trades, free-agent signings and the draft.
What’s been the team’s best move? Acquiring the NFL’s best kicker from 2012? Moving up in the first round to take a safety? Or was it trading quarterback Alex Smith to the Chiefs for a second-round pick this year and, it turns out, a second-round pick in 2014 if the Chiefs finish 8-8 or better this season?
All were solid moves by general manager Trent Baalke. But Don Banks of Sports Illustrated argues that the team’s acquisition of veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin from the Baltimore Ravens ranks as the best trade of this NFL season when it comes to getting value for value.
The 49ers brought Boldin aboard in exchange for just a sixth-round draft choice.
“Almost two months later, this deal looks like an inside job with John Harbaugh trying to make it up to his kid brother, Jim, for the whole Super Bowl victory and big confetti shower back in early February," Banks wrote. "Boldin led Baltimore in receiving yardage for three years running, then dominated the postseason with 22 receptions for 380 yards and four clutch touchdowns. How does that merit a sixth-round pick in exchange? That one’s going to skewer the Ravens’ giveaway/takeaway ratio for the foreseeable future.”
Boldin may be past his prime at age 32, but the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder – who’s entering his 11th NFL season – actually has seen little dropoff in his production in recent seasons. In 2012, Boldin caught 65 passes for 921 yards and four scores, which actually was up in all three categories from 2011. As recently as 2008 and ’09, his final two seasons in Arizona, he had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
His game has long been about running smart routes, battling for the football and making tough catches, and it figures Boldin could be a terrific complement to starter Michael Crabtree in 2013. With the addition of Boldin, the return of Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham from injuries, the development of 2012 No. 1 pick A.J. Jenkins and emergence of 2013 pick Quinton Patton, the Niners’ receiving corps appears much deeper than it was last season in winning a second straight NFC West title.
Boldin, after saying he initially was shocked by his trade, has been excited about playing for the 49ers in recent weeks. He’s been learning the playbook and spending extra time at the Niners’ facility.
“It’s a new environment, new system, new players, new coaches,” Boldin told the 49ers website recently. “I thought it was important for me to come out and try to get as familiar as possible before the season starts.”
His new teammate Williams believes Boldin might make the receivers around him better.
“The toughness he brings to the game, the intensity he brings to the game – it’s all put in there with the finesse that he also brings,” Williams told 49ers. com. “He has a great balance of putting it all together and making plays.”
Boldin also says it’s part of his job now – along with the other receivers on the team – to help quarterback Colin Kaepernick be the best he can be. Though Kaepernick led the team to the Super Bowl last season, he’ll be entering his first year as the starter. He’s still green in many ways.
“The thing he is not getting enough credit for is just his ability to be a quarterback,” Boldin told Sports Illustrated of Kaepernick. “A lot of people look at his athletic ability and they marvel at that, but they underestimate how good of a quarterback he is, how well he throws the ball.
“I think it is my job, and the other receivers and guys around him, to help him develop into the best quarterback he can be.”