Most fans and many NFL analysts have given the Ravens’ front office accolades for how adeptly they’ve transformed the team’s roster.
The questions that surface are generally about the veteran leadership that escaped with the departure of Ed Reed and the retirement of Ray Lewis. Time will tell just how important or overstated that is.
However one criticism of the offseason that almost always seems to surface is the Ravens decision to trade Anquan Boldin – particularly from fans who view the new 49ers receiver as Joe Flacco’s lost go-to-guy.
Let’s marinate in that for a moment…
What exactly is Anquan Boldin?
Well, he’s essentially a strong possession receiver who can make a catch in traffic and one who supports the running game. He’s a bruiser and a tough guy, something Baltimoreans embrace. After all this is a guy who had his face broken as a member of the Cardinals by the Jets’ Eric Smith and returned to the field just a few weeks later.
Boldin isn’t fast. He isn’t a great route runner. He doesn’t possess great change of direction skills. He seldom creates separation. Essentially he’s a bigger and less nimble version of Derrick Mason.
Mason was a very good Raven, but have the Ravens missed him? Has Flacco?
Heap was an excellent Raven. Have the Ravens missed him? Has Flacco?
Why are so many worried about the exodus of Anquan Boldin?
Recently well-respected NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell sat in with Doug Farrar from Yahoo Sports. One of the topics Cosell touched on was the Ravens offense and Anquan Boldin’s role.
“As good as Anquan Boldin was and [he] has super strong hands, a very strong body – Boldin made contested catches. Joe Flacco throws those balls and that will help a guy like [Aaron] Mellette because he has good size.”
Perhaps Cosell is jumping the gun a bit with Mellette. He was very surprised that the standout Phoenix receiver from the University of Elon fell to the 7th round.
The point however is that Flacco threw to heavily contested receivers, usually Boldin, putting the ball in spots where usually only Boldin could make a play on them. Let’s give some credit to the throws and remember that Flacco hasn’t gone anywhere.
Of course Boldin did a great job of finishing plays but what’s to prevent Dennis Pitta or Ed Dickson from making similar plays? Both are faster and bigger than Boldin and if Flacco delivers the same kind of ball, why can’t they enjoy the same results on those plays normally earmarked for the smaller Boldin?
Or as Cosell suggests, maybe those end zone routes that fans remember most could go to a player like Mellette.
As fans we have short memories. We embrace Boldin because he delivered when it counted during that final stretch of the 2012 season. Yet we forget that he dropped a pass in the 2011 Divisional Game in Pittsburgh that probably cost the team a chance to host the AFC Championship Game.
Was the trade of Boldin a loss for the Ravens? Of course but let’s remember that we can’t fully assess the impact of his departure until we consider who we were able to sign or keep with his $6 million cap savings and what the rest of the receiving corps does to pull up the slack.
The bet here is that Flacco will adjust as he did when Messrs. Mason and Heap left town and he’ll find his new red zone go-to-guy.
And then, the pain of losing Boldin will subside just as it did with Mason and Heap.