Did Ravens err by trading Anquan Boldin to 49ers?
If you can’t beat ‘em, get ‘em to join you.
After shining during the Baltimore Ravens’ playoff run and hauling in a key touchdown pass in the Super Bowl, Anquan Boldin reportedly was traded to San Francisco on Monday, with the 49ers sending a sixth-round pick to the Ravens.
The 32-year-old Boldin has one year left on his current contract at $6 million. The Ravens deemed that price tag too expensive and reportedly asked Boldin to take a pay cut, which the veteran receiver refused. So, general manager Ozzie Newsome did what he could to turn around some value for Boldin, while clearing that $6 million off the books.
But does that financial relief clear the Ravens’ decision to deal a key member of their Super Bowl championship team?
Boldin is a long way removed from his 102-catch, 1,400-yard 2005 season, but he continues to be a reliable target. That proved especially true in the playoffs — Boldin caught 22 passes and scored four touchdowns in Baltimore’s playoff wins, stepping up as Joe Flacco’s go-to guy.
While the Ravens still have a healthy dose of skill at receiver, thanks to Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and others, Boldin will be missed. If Baltimore was unwilling to spend $6 million on Boldin, it stands to reason, too, that the franchise will not make any substantial moves at that position in free agency — Brian Hartline, a decent No. 2 receiver, just received a similar average per-year on a new deal in Miami.
On the flip side, Boldin figures to be a very welcome addition to San Francisco’s roster (at least, he had better be for $6 million, barring a contract extension). The 49ers were in the market for someone to take the burden off Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis in the passing game. Boldin should do that, even if he winds up third on the depth chart behind Crabtree and Mario Manningham.
The move also counters, to some extent, the big splash made by Seattle earlier Monday — the Seahawks dealt multiple draft picks to Minnesota for Percy Harvin.
Boldin may not match Harvin’s impact (or his upside), but he should more than fill the shoes of Randy Moss, who mustered just 28 catches during the 2012 regular season and now sits set to enter free agency.
Even though a $6 million commitment is significant from a financial standpoint, the 49ers entered this offseason with a glut of cap room. And they will hardly miss that draft pick — San Francisco still holds a staggering 15 selections in the upcoming draft.
Following Flacco’s re-signing, the Ravens reportedly entered Monday with $12.263 million in cap space, according to the Baltimore Sun‘s Aaron Wilson, who first reported the Boldin trade.
They still have several key players about to be unrestricted free agents, including CB Cary Williams, S Ed Reed, OLB Paul Kruger and LB Dannell Ellerbe. Of that group, Baltimore would love to retain Ellerbe and may still make a play for Reed. (The Ravens also have multiple restricted free agents, including their top two tight ends, Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson.)
Even if the trade of Boldin opens the door to retain some of that talent, the Ravens could feel the after-effects of this decision deep into 2013. It’s likely no coincidence that as Boldin stepped up his game in the postseason, Flacco emerged as a playoff MVP candidate.
Now, armed with the highest-paying QB contract in the NFL, Flacco will have to find a way to succeed sans his most reliable pass-catcher.
Flacco even said last week that Boldin had every right to refuse the Ravens’ request for him to take a pay cut. Clearly, Baltimore’s franchise QB knew just how valuable Boldin was during the 2012 season and subsequent postseason rise.
The Ravens saw things differently. Now, they’ll cross their fingers and hope they were right.