Anquan Boldin makes Niners better, but defense still needs work 

click to enlarge New receiver Anquan Boldin will provide a physical presence in the 49ers' offense. - EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES
  • Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
  • New receiver Anquan Boldin will provide a physical presence in the 49ers' offense.

Hold on, wasn’t the NFL’s new league season, aka Christmas morning on 5-Hour Energy, supposed to start today at 1 p.m.?

Judging by the flurry of activity Monday, it seems like NFL teams didn’t get the memo.

And once again, the 49ers were right in the middle of it. Just weeks after being the first team to jump into the mix by agreeing to ship quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Niners kept up the wheeling and dealing.

Veteran Baltimore Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin went from one Harbaugh to another when the Niners agreed to send a sixth-round draft pick back to crabcake central in exchange for his services and the $6 million left on his contract for next season.

The move came just hours after the rival Seattle Seahawks made their own splash by agreeing to a swap for Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin, though for a considerably steeper price than San Francisco paid for its new toy.

The Niners’ answer, while likely totally unrelated, certainly came across as Jim Harbaugh sending his nemesis and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll a telepathic “What’s your deal?”

The first reaction to the Boldin move has to be, “Wow, what a steal!” A sixth-round pick for an establish star receiver is well worth it.

Boldin is a physical receiver who has a knack for making big catches in traffic. And his greatest asset might even be his run blocking, which is a huge plus for the run-heavy Niners offense.

Ultimately, does the Boldin trade make the 49ers better? Yes, at least on paper.

But does that mean Mayor Ed Lee can start drawing up plans for a Super Bowl-farewell parade down Market Street?

Not quite.

While Boldin is a solid addition, the 49ers’ biggest issue this offseason is the defense, and the pass defense in particular.

San Francisco’s defense allowed 29.7 points per game over the final six games of 2012, including the postseason, and gave up huge passing days to a number of opposing quarterbacks and receivers. Anyone remember the Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones in the NFC Championship Game, or even Boldin himself, who some have deemed old and slow, in the Super Bowl?

And in a conference that features the high-flying Falcons, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints, pass defense will continue to be at a premium.

That means San Francisco must solve what went wrong with the pass rush down the stretch and the coverage in the secondary.

Safety Dashon Goldson is a free agent, as are defensive linemen Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois. Those holes need to be plugged. An upgrade at cornerback is also imperative.

Reports of the Niners showing interest in Miami Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith signal a big step in the right direction. Smith is the big, in-your-face corner teams covet. Rumors of Ravens safety Ed Reed jumping ship to San Francisco have also surfaced.

So far, the Niners’ offseason has been terrific, and it technically hasn’t even started. But it can’t stop there. The defense must be shored up, otherwise it’ll be all for naught.

Dylan Kruse is the sports editor of The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @dylan_kruse.

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Dylan Kruse

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