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For the second year in a row, the 49ers went out and got a wide receiver from the team that ended their season. Anquan Boldin was acquired from the Baltimore Ravens for a 6th round pick in this years draft. The trade is a steal for San Francisco no matter how you look at it. The 49ers are finally getting a seasoned, tough, reliable pass catcher to start opposite Michael Crabtree. But while this is a good move, keep in mind it's not a cheap one. Boldin will make 6 million in 2013 which makes you wonder if a cut or two is on the way to make room cap wise for him and other impending additions. There is no risk past this season though as it is the last year of a 4 year deal he signed in 2010.
My first thought on the Boldin trade was that it was done with Seattle in mind, however, I don't think it was necessarily "in response" to the Percy Harvin deal. The Seahawks and 49ers have set themselves up to be at the top of the NFC West for the foreseeable future. In both contests in 2012, the Seahawk cornerbacks manhandled the 49er receivers at times. The 49ers pulled out a sloppy Thursday night game but were destroyed at Seattle late in the season in a contest where one of the most physical teams in the league got pushed around by the Hawks. The team needed some toughness on the outside and no one is tougher than Boldin. Case and point? He broke his face in week four of the 2008 season and was back in the starting lineup by week 8. Read that again, HE BROKE HIS FACE. When he came back in week 8, he didn't just suit up, he caught 9 passes for 2 scores. Even Richard Sherman can't talk trash to someone like that.
A lot has been made about Boldin not being able to separate from defenders like he used to. Truth be told, entering his 11th season, Boldin is not the 100 catch receiver he once was. The stats will back that up as over his first 7 years with the Cardinals, he averaged 83 receptions a year and eclipsed 100 twice. In 3 seasons with the Ravens, his average dipped to 62 per year and that was without having to compete with Larry Fitzgerald for targets. But Boldin is a veteran who knows how to get himself into position to make a catch. Even if he doesn't separate like he used to, that won't be as big of an issue with Colin Kapernick as it would have been with Alex Smith. Smith needed to have receivers open and was reluctant to try and force the ball to let his receivers make plays. Kaepernick is more apt to take a chance and, like Joe Flacco, has a rocket arm to get the ball in tight spots. Despite this supposed issue with separation, Boldin was still Joe Flacco's safety blanket and he could provide the same insurance for Kaepernick. He has terrific hands and could really help the team in the red zone where they tend to struggle throwing the ball.
In my mind, Boldin is the antithesis of Randy Moss. I'm not saying Moss played poorly last year or was a bad team player. But a lot was made of Moss doing things like blocking down field. That's not something we'd be surprised at Boldin doing. No one would go out of their way to recognize it because that's what we expect out of Boldin. Anquan plays with a nasty streak and is not afraid to get dirty. He won't only compliment Crabtree in the passing game but the running game as well, driving defenders down field while the 49er's stable of running backs pick up extra yards on the second level. That type of play represents what the 49ers are about under Jim Harbaugh and Boldin will fit right into this era of 49er football.
There is no way around the fact that the Boldin trade is a smart move for Trent Baalke and the 49ers and gives the team a true number two receiver. However, their work is not done. The team still lacks a real down field threat that can lift the top off of the defense, giving the passing game another dimension. But the off season is young and the draft is around the corner. There is also always the enigma that is A.J. Jenkins who could still be that threat. But despite all that, the 49er's receiver corps just got a little better and a lot tougher.
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