Boston a 49ers destination at WR?

In listening to Mike Nolan, you definitely don't get the impression the new 49ers coach is too broken up about losing free-agent receiver Cedrick Wilson to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But you do get the impression Nolan is legitimately interested in replacing Wilson on the roster with the troubled but talented David Boston.

When Boston's name came up Tuesday afternoon after an informal luncheon between 49ers media and the team's new coaching staff, Nolan didn't attempt to dance around the subject.

The 49ers are intrigued by the former Pro Bowl receiver, who became a star in Arizona earlier this decade under the tutelage of new Niners' receivers coach Jerry Sullivan.

"We've had discussions about him, yes," Nolan said. "I'll say this – the thing you need to know about David's situation is David has had his issues, but the best years he's ever had, he was coached by Jerry Sullivan. So, I'll leave it at that."

The obvious inference is that Sullivan would be able to reel in the wayward Boston and guide him toward performance levels Boston hasn't reached since he led the NFL with 1,598 receiving yards in 2001. That is, if Boston is healthy – he still is rehabilitating from surgery to repair a ruptured patellar tendon that wiped out his entire 2004 season.

Boston was released Monday after he failed a physical with the Miami Dolphins, who had traded a sixth-round draft choice to acquire him last year from the San Diego Chargers. Boston signed a seven-year, $47 million contract with San Diego in March of 2003, but he spent only one season with the team.

Boston drew criticism for his work ethic in San Diego, and he also was suspended for one game for getting into an argument with a coach.

He also has had several other well-documented problems off the field since reaching stardom in 2001. He pleaded no contest to a charge of drunken driving after that season, and police said he also tested positive for marijuana and cocaine. He was arrested last year on charges of simple assault after an altercation with an airport ticket agent in Vermont. He also was suspended four games last December for violating the NFL's steroid and performance-enhancing substance policy.

That's a lot of baggage, but – if and when his knee becomes healthy – Boston still is a physical specimen who could give San Francisco's young receivers corps a dimension it does not currently possess. At 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, Boston is a brutish force with breakaway ability who would give the Niners the kind of receiving threat the team hasn't had since Terrell Owens left town.

After Boston was cut earlier this week, his agent, Mitch Frankel, told a Miami newspaper that Boston was about a month away from being "completely" healthy. The Niners, still looking for somebody they can count on as a legitimate No. 1 receiving threat in 2005, definitely are interested.

"It's certainly an interesting thing," Nolan said, again alluding to the Sullivan factor. "I think to our favor, that is quite an asset we have. So, we'll see where that goes. If for no other reason, that makes it exciting. Right now, it's just talk more than anything else."

But the talk could get serious as Boston regains his health. In the meantime, the Niners will continue to evaluate their options at receiver, which includes selecting a receiver high in the April draft, perhaps even Michigan star Braylon Edwards with the No. 1 overall selection.

The 49ers would have less need for an established receiver had they kept Wilson, who was the team's leading wideout last year with 47 receptions for 641 yards. While the Niners still would have looked for a better No. 1 option even if Wilson had returned, Wilson would have given the team some proven veteran insurance.

Wilson, however, is a limited talent, and the 49ers weren't about to overpay to keep him on the roster. The team gave him a representative offer, but when the Steelers wagged a four-year, $8 million deal at him, the 49ers waved Wilson a happy farewell.

As they should have. Wilson's not worth that kind of money, particularly to the 49ers, where he ultimately would fit in as no more than a No. 3 receiver.

While acknowledging the team's interest in retaining Wilson, Nolan also indicated that Wilson hardly was as much of a monetary priority to the Niners as he apparently was to Pittsburgh.

"I'm certainly disappointed, because he's a guy we wanted back," Nolan said. "Pittsburgh sees him as being a little bit more of an integral part to what they are trying to build (than) what we do. You have to put value on everybody that you have on your football team, and I think Pittsburgh just thought or saw him a little more valuable to them than we did."


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