This wasn't the first time the 49ers tried to trade for Anquan Boldin.
Back in 2009, they dialed the Cardinals, who had the expensive problem of having both Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald on the roster, to see what Arizona was seeking for Boldin. The Cardinals, however, weren't willing to trade the big, bruising wideout in the division.
Soon after, the 49ers drafted Michael Crabtree, whom then-general manager Scot McCloughan said was the "closest thing I've seen to Anquan Boldin in college."
Said McCloughan on draft day of Crabtree: "He's got excellent hands, and he's got the physical attributes to play on the NFL level and to make plays. He's a highly competitive guy who's not afraid, whatsoever. There are faster guys in the draft, no doubt about it. There will be faster guys in the NFL. But he brings a unique quality to play physical and make plays on the NFL level."
Which raises a question: Can the 49ers prosper with two, similar starting wideouts, neither of whom is known for stretching defensive secondaries? Last year, Crabtree had a career-best season with fleet-footed Randy Moss - at the end of the season, anyway - opposite him. In Baltimore, Boldin was complemented by burners Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones.
The situation certainly is not unprecedented. Fitzgerald isn't a track star, either, and he and Boldin were the NFL's top receiving tandem when they were in Arizona. The 49ers also have one of the fastest tight ends in the league, Vernon Davis, and surely will work in a third receiver - whether it's A.J. Jenkins or Kyle Williams or, eventually, Mario Manningham - who does have speed.
Boldin's role also is interesting to consider. Unlike Moss, he's an excellent blocker and has been one of the most physical wideouts in the NFL for the last decade. He's also made a career out of catching passes over and across the middle of the defense. (See: 2012 playoffs; opening-drive score in Super Bowl).
In that way, he acts a lot like a tight end. No, he's not as good a blocker as the 49ers' Delanie Walker, who is poised to test free agency. And Walker does not have Boldin's pass-catching prowess, as his multiple drops in 2012 illustrated. But you have to wonder whether Boldin could take over some of Walker's roles in the 49ers' offense should Walker land elsewhere.
-- Matt Barrows