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Should He Stay Or Should He Go? 3 Key 49ers Free Agents

Jan 31, 2014 at 9:45 AM

The Clash asked a similar question in their 1981 hit. The 49ers have twelve players scheduled to be free agents this offseason, including three who were vital to their success in 2013, Anquan Boldin, Donte Whitner and Phil Dawson. It is very unlikely that all three will be able to return for 2014 unless they agree to take less money than the open market is likely to offer.

So who should stay, and who should go?

"Absolutely!" That is often the reaction of most when asked if the 49ers should bring back Anquan Boldin. After all, he was named team MVP after leading them in receptions and holding down the receiver position while Michael Crabtree rehabbed his offseason achilles injury.

The primary question with Boldin is what it will take to bring him back. The reason he ultimately ended up in San Francisco was his unwillingness to reduce his salary from $6 million to stay with Baltimore. Why would be be willing to reduce it now? Boldin, who will turn 34 prior to next season, is likely to seek a contract similar to the one signed by Reggie Wayne in 2012 when he too was 34. That contract called for Wayne to receive $17.5 million over 3 years and included a signing bonus of $6.5 million.

If the 49ers and Boldin could agree on a deal of this type, he should stay. The $6.5 million signing bonus gives Boldin a bump in pay for 2014 while allowing the 49ers to massage the cap hit to meet their salary structure. In Wayne's situation, Indianapolis was able to get a low cap number of $3.167 million the first year, that would be a steal for the 49ers.

Should Boldin look for more, the 49ers should say, "Thank you for your service Anquan. We wish you the best in your remaining career."

At receiver the 49ers have Quinton Patton ready to step in opposite Michael Crabtree, and can spend a first or second round pick on another receiver that they can bring along as the season progresses. The 49ers offense uses more than 2 receivers on only about 25% of its plays and that is unlikely to change unless Jim Harbaugh decides to revamp his offensive philosophy this offseason.

The more urgent need may be at safety. Do the 49ers want to put a rookie opposite Eric Reid in only his second year? This draft class is not as deep at the position as it was last season, and while the 49ers could pick up a good player it is likely that it will take a year to develop and be ready to start in the NFL.

The 49ers could take the money that would otherwise go to Boldin to keep Donte Whitner. By putting the franchise tag on him they would buy themselves a year with a proven veteran while being able to develop the rookie to take over in 2015 just as they did with Dashon Goldson in 2012. The franchise tag for a safety in 2014 is likely to be around $6.9 million.

That brings us to Phil Dawson. I must admit I was a little surprised to find that five kickers tried more field goals than Dawson in 2013. Jim Harbaugh loves his kickers, or so it seems, and after struggling through 2012 with David Akers the acquisition of Dawson had to make the coach breath a bit easier. When asked about Dawson's contract during the season, Harbaugh responded by saying, "Pay the man."

Dawson earned every bit of his $2.35 million salary in 2013, but what will he be looking for moving forward? After suffering through losing season after losing season in Cleveland, it is likely that he will be willing to take something in the same range to stay with a winning franchise. That would be a big deal for a team that likes to lean on it's kickers as much as the 49ers do.

Put yourself in the position of 49ers General Manager. How would you manage the situation with these three? If you had to replace one of them who would it be and why?
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Marty
    In 2013 49ers passing defense was 7th overall. Not bad with a rookie safety & the back field in flux most of the season. You could have Brock, ?, Ried & Culliver as starters. With Coxs as a nickel back. This could be as good or better than 2013. Should focus on a high rated reciever during the draft. With this many draft choices you should have great flexability during the draft.
    Jan 31, 2014 at 4:23 PM
  • jbeale49
    March 13th is the date. Figure out Kap, Crab, Aldon extension situations by then to figure out Boldin, Whitner, Brown, Dixon. Rodgers and Manningham are gone. Dawson, a foregone conclusion.
    Jan 31, 2014 at 3:54 PM
  • DSmith_49erz
    Boldin provided us with a security blanket while Crabtree and Patton were injured. Without Boldin we may not have made the playoffs. I say sign Boldin and allow Patton to work himself into #2 spot.
    Jan 31, 2014 at 2:37 PM
  • trueniner81
    Move Chris Culliver to safety to replace whither. Keep Boldin at the right price and draft a speedster at wr. Replace Dawson with Touchdowns
    Jan 31, 2014 at 12:19 PM
  • bret
    Boldin was definitely a life-saver with Crabtree out. But when they were together the lack of speed was a hindrance to the offense. I'd like to resign him, but Patton, plus a high round pick being worked in, will probably be okay. I'd still pay what it takes this year, if cutting him in a year or two won't carry a big cap hit. I'd also like Whitner, but even though he didn't get fined, his personal fouls still cost us in games keeping drives alive. I think a second or third rounder can be worked in more easily at safety than anywhere else. So my pick has to be Dawson. He was money and made several money kicks with the game on the line. Finding that in the draft can be done, but it's iffy. BTW, I would make T-Brown a priority (above Whitner, but maybe below Boldin. He was the the team's top corner for the past two years until he gone hurt, when he arguably was passed by Brock, and I know we have Culliver coming back; but we need 3 corners and Eric Wright seemed to lose the confidence of the coaches (study habits) and Cox, though he looked decent in the playoffs, didn't look so good they felt the need to keep him around all year. Are we going to find better than T-Brown in the draft?
    Jan 31, 2014 at 11:04 AM
    Response: I think they are ok outside with Brock and Culliver. They need to find a slot guy if they choose to release Rogers.
  • D'Metre
    I think its absoutely essential to keep Boldin, we need to surround Kap with all the targets possible; this will make him so much more effective and aid in his development. Furthermore, Crabs has not shown the ability to stay healthy so having ironman Boldin around serves as insurance in case Crabs goes down again. Dawson.....PAY THE MAN! I don't want to go through the agony that was David Akers again. Pending his contract demands it looks as if Whitner is the odd man out....IMO
    Jan 31, 2014 at 10:29 AM
  • Frank
    I wouldn't franchise Whitner...that's @ $7M against the cap. If you're going to keep him, sign him to a 3-4 yr contract. Draft a S, but not to start, unless no other options exist. Re-sign Boldin...he can mentor whatever WR Baalke drafts so Harbaugh can better integrate him in the receiving corps. Dawson's a no-brainer. Cut ties w/Goodwin, Rogers, et al to create the needed cap space.
    Jan 31, 2014 at 10:22 AM
  • montv
    Keep Boldin; Crabtree is a free agent after this season, and Patton has played OK so far, but how good is he really? Dawson is a solid kicker, which is essential until Kaepernick gets better in the red zone. Whitner is the most expendable, especially after the long completion for a TD he gave up in the Conference Title game. Trade for a strong safety or move one of your other defensive backs to that position; they need to draft a shut-down corner anyway; maybe Tarell Brown or Brock can move back there.
    Jan 31, 2014 at 10:13 AM
    Response: Tarell Brown is a free agent and they need Brock at corner.
  • Steve
    Boldin needs to be resigned unless the cost exceeds $7 million per year. I would let Hitner go unless he is willing to sign for less. He is not able to cover the bigger TE's. Dawson should be back.
    Jan 31, 2014 at 10:02 AM
  • Six-Ace-Deuce
    Actually, Boldin WAS willing to take a paycut, but only if Baltimore offered him an extension.. they said no to the extension, so he said no to paycut. At this stage, Boldin is looking for some sort of security than playing year-to-year.
    Jan 31, 2014 at 9:52 AM

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