The Ravens, in a bold move to bolster their passing offense, acquired Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin for third- and fourth-round picks in the 2010 draft. Arizona will also send its fifth-round pick in April's draft to Baltimore.
The Ravens also struck quickly to keep Boldin in the fold beyond 2010, agreeing on a three-year, $25 million contract extension with him, according to ESPN.com. According to the ESPN.com report, Boldin will now be signed through 2013, with a total of $28 million left on his contract. Boldin will receive $10 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN.com.
Boldin, 29, could quickly become Joe Flacco's go-to receiver, especially if Derrick Mason leaves in free agency. If Mason re-signs, the Ravens' WR corps would be deep and talented, with Boldin and Mason likely the starters and Donté Stallworth and Mark Clayton capable of filling complementary roles.
Boldin caught 84 passes for 1,024 yards with four TDs for Arizona in 2009. He has caught at least 71 passes in six of his first seven NFL seasons.
The PFW spin
The Ravens have never been afraid to trade for veterans — see their acquisitions of QB Steve McNair in 2006 and RB Willis McGahee in '07 — and though they surrender third- and fourth-round picks in a well-regarded draft in exchange for Boldin, they have made the right move for the following reasons:
— Boldin should have several effective seasons left. Though Boldin has played all 16 games in just two of his seven NFL campaigns, he's never been known for his vertical speed. He's a wonderful possession receiver — strong, tough and savvy.
— The Ravens had a clear need at wide receiver not easily filled otherwise. The Ravens could have drafted a wide receiver in Round One, but they weren't going to reach for a wideout in the first round just to fill the need, which could have forced Baltimore to wait until later in the draft to add a young pass catcher. Banking on a rookie receiver to emerge in Year One, a la Boldin in 2003, when he was a second-round pick out of Florida State, is rather risky.
Also risky, and certainly more costly, would have been constructing an offer sheet for a restricted free agent like Denver's Brandon Marshall, San Diego's Vincent Jackson or Dallas' Miles Austin.
Finally, the UFA WR class lacked a standout. The Ravens were reportedly interested in Houston's Kevin Walter, but he's not a go-to receiver. Boldin is, and the Ravens got him for two mid-round draft picks and a three-year contract that includes a reasonable amount of guaranteed money for a 29-year-old pass catcher with a strong track record.
— Boldin's arrival presents major challenges for the opposition. Opposing secondaries will focus primarily on the ex-Cardinals star, which will make life easier for Mason and/or Clayton, as well as TE Todd Heap. Teams can also struggle to cover versatile RB Ray Rice when he runs routes out of the backfield. The Ravens' offense got more difficult to defend on Friday, and that is no small accomplishment for a team with aspirations of winning a Super Bowl.
The Cardinals' reasoning for trading Boldin is understandable; he was entering the last year of his contract, and they can promote Steve Breaston into the starting lineup and give the promising Early Doucet more playing time. But they have lost a dynamic playmaker, one who could make a big difference for Baltimore.
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