SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — If Anquan Boldin makes one catch in Sunday’s game in Detroit, he will become the 13th player in NFL history to reach 1,000.
But while that milestone seems likely with two games remaining this season, his future with the 49ers is far more questionable.
Boldin, 35, will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and expressed interest Thursday in returning to San Francisco, where he’s played the past three seasons.
“Definitely. I like it here. I like the people here. The organization has been good to me,” Boldin said.
“And I have roots here now. There’s a lot of people, a lot of relationships that I’ve built in this community. When the time does come, it will just be hard to say goodbye to.”
Boldin is on pace to have fewer than 1,000 yards receiving for the first time since joining the 49ers in 2013, just months after beating them in the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens. Boldin eclipsed 1,000 yards in seven of his previous 12 years, and ranks 17th in league history with 13,097 yards receiving.
Heading into the game against the Lions, San Francisco is at 4-10 after reaching three straight conference title games and a Super Bowl. If Boldin were to hit the market in the spring, he could be a hot commodity for teams contending for a championship.
“I mean, it doesn’t matter what age you are, you want to be playing for a championship. That goes without saying. That’s the reason you play this game,” Boldin said. “But I would also say it’s difficult to say I just wouldn’t want to be here because I feel like we’re rebuilding and I want to play for a championship. It’s deeper than that, especially when you’ve been at a place for a certain amount of years. And you have roots there.”
Boldin’s NFL career has been unusual given his lack of the blazing speed typical of contemporary receivers. He relies more on his technique and fundamentals to get separation from defenders. It’s a physical brand for the position.
“I feel like you could put him at D-line and he’d be successful. Anquan can play ball,” receiver Torrey Smith said. “They don’t make them like Anquan. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to play with him, and consider him family.”
Smith joined the 49ers as a high-priced free agent last spring, in part, because Boldin recruited him to rejoin him in California. Despite having different skill sets, Smith viewed Boldin as a mentor after getting drafted by the Ravens in 2011. They won that Super Bowl together catching passes from Joe Flacco.
“I’m more of a speed guy. He doesn’t have that part, so he has to work harder at different things,” said Smith. “But he told me, ‘You have all the natural ability. You have to work on all the techniques and get that down. That’s how you last a long time in this league.’
“And I took it to heart, and that’s what I work on a lot in the offseason.”