While chatter has swirled about Jim Harbaugh's future with the 49ers in recent weeks, wide receiver Anquan Boldin has secured his status in San Francisco — and even credited the coach for his decision to come back.
The franchise gave him a few million other reasons, too.
The 49ers signed Boldin to a two-year, $12 million US contract with $9 million guaranteed Monday, keeping quarterback Colin Kaepernick's top option from last season and one of Harbaugh's favourites from hitting free agency.
"He's a guy I had a real good relationship with," Boldin said about Harbaugh on a conference call with reporters. "Me and him were able to talk about anything. And I just like his demeanour, the way he approaches the game. He's a guy that wants to win. I'm the exact same way. So I think we mesh pretty good."
Boldin, who was set to become a free agent next week, led San Francisco with 85 catches for 1,179 yards to go with seven touchdowns last season. He was traded from John Harbaugh's Ravens to the 49ers in the off-season for a sixth-round pick after helping Baltimore win the Super Bowl.
While the salary cap strapped Ravens failed to make the playoffs, the 49ers finished 12-4 during the regular season — in part because Boldin filled the void created by an off-season torn right Achilles tendon that sidelined Michael Crabtree for the first 11 games. Boldin's performances earned him the Bill Walsh Award, given to the team MVP by the coaches.
Boldin's deal locked up one of San Francisco's top off-season priorities and briefly quieted the questions about Harbaugh's future with the 49ers after reports surfaced in recent weeks about the team fielding trade offers for the coach from the Cleveland Browns, a possible rift with general manager Trent Baalke and even problems with players.
Boldin said he doesn't pay much attention to NFL news in the off-season because he's focused on his family and charitable foundation and "at this time of year, people grab at whatever." But he admitted he'd been following the Harbaugh saga.
"When I did hear about it, I kind of laughed," Boldin said. "I don't think anybody in our locker room has an issue with coach Harbaugh. The way our locker room is built, we have an open-door policy. If anybody has a concern or wants to voice their opinion, they're more than welcome to.
"There have been times when we have voiced our concerns as players, and coach Harbaugh has listened to us and taken into consideration how we felt as players. So I don't think there's any rift between players and coaches, particularly coach Harbaugh."
Boldin's return to San Francisco was not all that surprising.
Harbaugh said at last week's NFL Scouting Combine that the franchise was determined to re-sign the wide receiver, and Boldin had repeatedly said he wanted to come back. The sides hashed out the deal before Boldin could become a free agent for the first time in his 11-year career.
"We are pleased that Anquan has chosen to continue his career as a 49er," Baalke said in a statement. "He is a consummate professional whose love and respect for the game provide a tremendous example for all players. Anquan has been a very productive player throughout his career and we look forward to his future contributions to our team and community."
Boldin's transition to the 49ers seemed seamless.
Boldin, now 33 years old, was at his best in his debut for San Francisco when he caught 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in a 34-28 win over Green Bay.
He then capped his season with his second-best game with nine catches for 149 yards and a score in a Week 17 win over Arizona that clinched the fifth seed for San Francisco.
In three playoff games, Boldin had 16 catches for 227 yards and a touchdown. The 49ers lost in the NFC title game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
Boldin, drafted by Arizona in the second round out of Florida State in 2003, played seven seasons for the Cardinals and three for the Ravens. The three-time Pro Bowler has 857 receptions for 11,344 yards and 65 touchdowns in his career, which he believes is far from finished.
"Physically, I feel fine," he said. "I feel as if I can play five more years. So that's not a problem for me. I feel great. But we'll see how it goes."