With the NFL Free Agency period coming up really soon, the San Francisco 49ers entered the offseason with the understanding that they must add to the wide receiver corps. It goes without saying that the wide receiver corp was, or could have been, the weakest unit on the 49ers’ roster, especially for the majority of the 2013 season when Michael Crabtree was out due to him recovering from his Achilles tendon injury.
Re-signing Anquan Boldin must be priority No. 1 for the 49ers as an organization, and if he is not the No. 1 priority, then he must be priority 1A or 1B. While there are certainly positive messages from both Boldin and the 49ers on a willingness to come to an agreement, until Boldin is re-signed, we cannot assume that him returning for the 2014 season is a given. But even if Boldin is re-signed, it goes without saying that the 49ers will still need to add to the wide receiver corp.
That said, the question becomes whether or not the 49ers should prioritize bringing in a wide receiver(s) via the draft or the free agency route. In making the case for the 49ers going the draft route, recent history is not a good one for the 49ers in this department — think back to the team drafting A.J. Jenkins with the 30th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Needless to say, Jenkins turned out to be a bust. That said, the 2014 Draft has a better group of top wide receivers than the 2012 Draft. While a Sammy Watkins can be expected to be off the board early, the 49ers can sit around and wait for an Odell Beckham Jr. to potentially fall to them.
The 49ers could do what they did in the 2013 Draft and identify a wide receiver like Kelvin Benjamin or Mike Evans and pull off a trade with a team in the middle of the first round to bring in one of these two talented wide receivers in order to strengthen the wide receiver corps. Going this route would certainly improve the wide receiver corp and add a young talented piece who can grow with Colin Kaepernick.
If the 49ers were to decide to go the free agency route, there are a number of quality players they can sign, assuming the price is right. SB Nation 49ers’ blog, Niners Nation, does a very good job of listing which wide receivers are free agents here in this offseason. While it is very unlikely that someone like Eric Decker or James Jones will sign with the 49ers given they are likely to sign big deals, signing wide receivers like Brandon LaFell, Tiquan Underwood or potentially Julian Edelman is not out of the realm of possibility.
The fact is that wide receivers like LaFell and Underwood, while not a high-profile signing, would mean that the 49ers would significantly add to and improve the wide receiver corps while allowing the 49ers to draft a wide receiver of more name appeal if they choose to go that route. Finally, signing Edelman would mean signing a wide receiver who would be the perfect complement to what Crabtree and Boldin, if re-signed, would bring to the table.
Whichever path is chosen, it is clear that the 49ers need to add to the wide receiver corps for the 2014 season.