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Updated March 5, 2010 @ 9:06 p.m. ET
Cardinals GM Rod Graves was predictably evasive when asked about the possibility of a trade involving WR Anquan Boldin at this year's NFL Scouting Combine.
Last offseason the Cardinals were willing to listen to offers for Boldin, with the most serious suitors reportedly being the Bears and the Eagles, who offered a second- and a third-round pick, respectively — neither of which was considered enough compensation for a player who has remained a valuable contributor to the offense when healthy.
Yet, the way we heard it prior to the start of free agency, the team would have jumped at the opportunity to receive a second-round pick now for Boldin. Even though his $3 million salary for 2010 is considered quite affordable, the seven-year veteran is approaching the age of 30 this fall and appeared less explosive in 2009 than he's been in the past, despite gaining over 1,000 yards for the fifth time in his seven-year career.
As it turned out, the Cardinals pulled the trigger on the first day of free agency and traded Boldin to the Ravens in exchange for third- and fourth-round draft choices in 2010, according to sources, who also indicated that Arizona would send a fifth-round pick to Baltimore as part of the deal.
Easing the way for the Cardinals to peddle Boldin while they still could get something decent in exchange for him was the emergence of Cardinals WRs Steve Breaston, who received a first-round tender ($2.4 million) as a restricted free agent, and Early Doucet, who finally started to make significant strides in his second season with the team.
"There are a lot of similarities between the style of play between Anquan and Early, and one of those reasons is because Anquan has taken Early under his wing and helped develop him as a player," Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt said at the Combine. "One of the reasons we drafted Early and like him so much was because of the run-after-the-catch (ability), the physical nature that he played with.
"It's unfortunate he was nicked up the first two years, and we didn't get a chance to see as much of him as we liked. The way he played the last part of the season, especially the playoff game, is very exciting. We had seen that from Early on the football field in practice, but we hadn't seen it in game situations."
For the most authoritative NFL draft news and free-agency analysis, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.