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Why 49ers’ Acquisition of Anquan Boldin Hurts Michael Crabtree in the Long Run

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COMMENTARY | The San Francisco 49ers got their man this offseason, trading for Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin and improving an offense already filled with dangerous weapons.

While the new receiving duo of Boldin and Michael Crabtree, combined with the return of Mario Manningham, will cause opponents fits in the secondary next season, it will also cause Crabtree fits down the road.

Crabtree will have a $3.5 million player option at the end of next season, but the wording in his contract pretty much guarantees he will be in a 49ers uniform until at least after the 2014 NFL season -- the first in the 49ers' new Santa Clara stadium.

Slowly creeping up on the 49ers is the impending free agency of Crabtree, one that the franchise has likely circled on their calendar since he was drafted by the team in 2009. Crabtree held out for 71 days and for the first four games of the 2009 NFL season because of a contract dispute, after the 49ers selected him with the 10th overall pick out of Texas Tech. He signed a contract for six years and $32 million that will pay him $4.5 million in 2013.

Crabtree is expected to demand a high price either with the 49ers or in free agency, especially after Mike Wallace just signed with the Miami Dolphins for $60 million over five years.

As the No. 1 target for the NFC champions, Crabtree should have leverage in the negotiating process. The only problem is he is no longer the No. 1 target for Colin Kaepernick -- Boldin is. It will surely alter the size of Crabtree's contract moving forward and the demand for his services if the negotiating process gets ugly, as it did before he even stepped on an NFL field in 2009.

Boldin will become a free agent after the 2013-14 NFL season, presumably looking for one of his last contracts in the NFL at 32-years old. Essentially, Crabtree's one-time leverage as the No. 1 wide receiver in San Francisco is no longer, enabling the 49ers to use their own leverage with the threat of Crabtree's status as a No. 1 target in in the NFL.

Crabtree's numbers in 2013 will directly correlate to what kind of contract he will be offered by the 49ers if an extension is to occur after next season, which is expected to happen.

Mayhem is then expected to occur.

The receiving duo gives the 49ers options at the end of next season -- Boldin or Crabtree? Better yet, can the 49ers use the threat of Boldin's career production and No. 1 target status to settle for a lesser contract with Crabtree, who is not widely regarded as No. 1-target material in the NFL?

Judging by the start to Crabtree's NFL career, the negotiating process could get ugly. Crabtree and Kaepernick have grown together nicely and their chemistry was unmistakable in the half season they were on the field together, which culminated in a Super Bowl appearance.

While the Crabtree/Boldin threat is certainly a huge acquisition for the 49ers, headaches are sure to come -- mostly on Crabtree's agent Eugene Parker's end. Once thought of as a player worth throwing the farm at as recently as at the end of last season, Crabtree may have to take a step back if he thinks the addition of Boldin to the receiving core will not affect his production and the way his next contract is settled.

Scott Semmler is a senior at San Jose State University fortunate enough to have covered nearly every Bay Area professional sports team, including the San Francisco Giants' 2012 World Series title. Follow him on Twitter @ScottSemmler22.

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