The San Francisco 49ers did not extend a qualifying offer to free agent WR Anquan Boldin this week, which means the team has pretty much closed the door on bringing the veteran wideout back for what would have been a fourth season in red and gold. While Boldin has been one of the few bright spots in the passing game recently, it’s hard to find much fault with the decision to move on from him.
Boldin will be 36 years-old in October, and is in the twilight of a borderline Hall of Fame career. He might have some good football left, but his best days are most likely behind him and the drop off for older receivers can be steep and sudden. Combine that with the fact that the 49ers are clearly rebuilding, and it’s easy to see why a continued partnership here just wouldn’t make sense.
San Francisco needs to find out what it has in receivers like WR DeAndre Smelter, WR Quinton Patton, WR Eric Rogers and WR Bruce Ellington. The only way that’s possible is if those guys see reps, and that won’t happen with a veteran blocking their path. Even though there will be ups and downs with the current group, it’s really the only way to go at this point.
#49ers are doing the right thing by letting Anquan Boldin walk. They have to find out about young WRs & can’t do that with him there
— Al Sacco (@AlSacco49) May 12, 2016
So that’s that. The book on Boldin’s Niner tenure can now be shut, and we can reflect on just what kind of an impact he’s had on the franchise. Truth be told, I think it’s safe to say he’s probably the best receiver the team’s had in a decade.
Think about it. Can you name another wide out who’s been as consistent as Boldin since WR Terrell Owens left town? You probably can’t because there hasn’t been too much to get excited about with that particular position group. In fact, from 2004-2011 no 49er receiver gained more than 874 yards in a single season.
Boldin; on the other hand, was the epitome of consistency during his three year tenure, and was the first receiver to record back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons since Owens did it in 2002-2003. Overall, he caught 237 balls for 3,030 yards and 16 touchdowns for San Francisco, while catching 64 percent of the passes thrown his way.
Boldin also proved to be as clutch as anyone else on the roster, as he made play after play when the team needed it most. Take 2014 for example, when 56 of Boldin’s 83 catches gave the offense a first down. 27 of those receptions came on third down, which was the second highest total in the NFL behind WR Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers (28).
While the sample size was small, Boldin also excelled in the postseason with the 49ers, going 16/227/1 during their three game run to the NFC Championship game in 2013. He was also named the 2016 recipient of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award for his humanitarian efforts off the field.
The only Niner’s receiver you could say was even close to Boldin over the past 12 years was WR Michael Crabtree, but he didn’t have the overall consistency that Boldin did. For proof, look no further than their 16 game averages with the team.
Boldin averaged 5.15 receptions, 65.8 yards and .34 touchdowns a game. Over a 16 game season, that would equate to about 82/1052/5. For Crabtree, the numbers are lower across almost the entire board, as his averages were 4.39 catches, 54.7 yards and .33 touchdowns. That puts his projected 16 game output at around 70/875/5. Crabtree caught 60 percent of the balls thrown to him, which was four percent lower than Boldin’s previously mentioned 64.
Both players are similar possession type receivers, and neither ever had a prolific quarterback throwing them the football, but I would say the edge here clearly goes to Boldin. Overall, not too shabby considering the 49ers stole him form the Baltimore Ravens for a sixth-round pick.
It’s a shame Boldin’s era by the bay was a short one and has to come to an end like this, but there’s no denying he had a significant impact on the 49ers and their fan base. Whether he catches on with another team or not, I’m sure most will wish him the best as he approaches the end of the line on what’s been a great NFL career.