Matt Dunham/Associated Press
The 49ers did not want to risk the chance of letting wide receiver Anquan Boldin hit the open free-agent market.
Anquan Boldin, Wide Receiver
2014 Contract: Two years at $12 million
Technically, San Francisco's leading receiver from last season never became a free agent. The 49ers did not want to take a chance on him hitting the open market, and subsequently signed him to a two-year deal before the start of free agency.
Yet we should still evaluate this as the most critical offseason re-signing the 49ers have made thus far based solely on what Anquan Boldin did for the franchise last year.
Earlier in the offseason, Boldin had hinted through his Twitter account that he would like to stay in San Francisco—thanking fans for welcoming him during his first season in a 49ers uniform.
Boldin was also one of the first to announce the two-year deal had been finalized.
In Boldin, the 49ers offense will retain a veteran presence on the field who, at 33 years old, still has plenty to offer in terms of offensive production and leadership. Considering the lack of production from his position last year, the re-signing was vital in a number of ways.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick developed an almost instant rapport with Boldin entering the 2013 season—a crucial facet described further by Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee:
Boldin had a near-instantaneous rapport with Kaepernick last offseason. That became critical when Crabtree tore his Achilles' tendon in May, an injury that would keep him out of the lineup until December. While Kaepernick did not find a rapport with the team's remaining wideouts, that was not the case with Boldin. According to Pro Football Focus, Kaepernick threw 123 passes towards Boldin last season. Their other wideouts only saw 95 targets combined.
Not only did Boldin lead all 49ers receivers with 1,179 receiving yards during the season, but his tremendous veteran presence is also something worth considering when evaluating a potentially younger group of San Francisco wideouts.
Quinton Patton—whose rookie campaign was largely thwarted due to a foot injury—will be a primary beneficiary of Boldin's ongoing tutelage. In addition, if the 49ers elect to draft a wide receiver or two in the upcoming NFL draft—something projected they will do—Boldin again can show his leadership.
Finally, there is the concern about how the 49ers' receiving corps may look after the 2014 season. The team's longtime No. 1 receiver Michael Crabtree is set to be a free agent following the season. Should San Francisco have difficulty retaining him, holding onto Boldin through 2015 seems like a good choice and at the right price.
While it is a concern that Boldin will turn 34 years old this upcoming October, all signs still point to him contributing at a high level. There are no reasons to suspect this will slow down in 2014.
Regardless of what the 49ers will do in the draft, the team will hopefully enjoy a full season with both Crabtree and Boldin opposite each other as the team's Nos. 1 and 2 receivers—an element missed by the team for much of the 2013 season last year.
Boldin should help the transition towards the next generation of San Francisco receivers. His impact will be felt in large ways, both on and off the field.
There is little to argue against that.
As stated at the beginning of this slideshow, the 49ers are not a team known for bolstering their roster through big free-agency signings.
2014 has been no different aside from the notable acquisitions described herein.
There will likely be some more additions following the 2014 NFL draft—perhaps the signings of undrafted free agents and other supplementary or developmental players brought in to round out the roster and supply competition in training camp.
At this point, however, the 49ers are most likely finished with their free-agent deals until that period. General manager Trent Baalke has probably executed all the deals necessary and shall rely again on the draft to keep San Francisco moving forward in a positive direction.
Still, many of these free-agent acquisitions will have impacts in 2014 and hindsight shall provide us with a more accurate indication on whether or not these deals were worth their weight.
Hopefully for the franchise, each deal pays off the desired dividends.
All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated. Contractual information courtesy of Spotrac.com.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.