Anquan Boldin should be on the decline. Even the average top-20 receiver (in terms of yardage all-time) has his last 1000 yard season at age 34-35, averages 48 catches for 594 yards and 3 touchdowns for 2 more seasons after age 34-35, and is done playing by age 36-37. Anquan Boldin is now going into his age 34 season and is “only” 29th all-time in receiving yardage.
Instead, Boldin is coming off of his best season in terms of receiving yardage (1173) since 2006. And it wasn’t just the receiver-needy 49ers forcing him the ball every play. Boldin caught 69.1% of his targets, averaged 2.55 yards per route run (5th in the NFL), dropped just 6 passes, broke 13 tackles, averaged 5.2 yards after catch per catch, and grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 9th ranked wide receiver, including 3rd ranked in terms of pure pass catching grade. Colin Kaepernick had a 118.6 QB rating when throwing to him, which was 6th in the NFL.
It’s uncommon for a receiver to have that kind of season at age 33, but you have to remember what kind of receiver Anquan Boldin is. He’s never been a great athlete, relying on superb hands and body control, as well as physicality and ability to shake tackles after the catch. He isn’t someone who gets a lot of separation, but he’s almost always open even when he’s not. That type of receiver can survive into his mid-30s in ways that receivers more dependent on athleticism in the prime of their careers can’t. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him continue to produce in 2014 and 2015.
This was a very good move for the receiver-needy 49ers to lock up Anquan Boldin on this short-term deal. Boldin will make 12 million over 2 years maximum and the 49ers could get out of it after 1-year and 6 million dollars guaranteed if they chose to do so. Most likely, they’ll keep him on into 2015 because he’ll continue to prove to be an asset in the passing game in 2014 opposite Michael Crabtree. This deal is very similar to the one the Broncos gave Wes Welker in a similar stage in his career last off-season and I think it makes a lot of sense.