It’s difficult to look at the Ravens’ decision to trade veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers with any level of enthusiasm.
Yes, Baltimore will save $6 million in salary cap space for the 2013 season.
The Ravens were able to fetch a sixth-round pick when it looked as though they would end up releasing Boldin with nothing in return after he balked at the idea of a $2 million pay cut. Of course, the Ravens’ recent sixth-round history includes such sterling names as wide receiver Tommy Streeter, backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, offensive lineman Ramon Harewood, and running back Cedric Peerman — not exactly a group to go crazy over.
The trade prevents another AFC North rival such as the Bengals or the Browns — both with plenty of cap space — or another conference opponent from signing the dangerous slot receiver on the open market. The Ravens aren’t scheduled to play the 49ers again until 2015 unless these teams were to meet in the Super Bowl yet again.
But what hurts is that Boldin won’t be playing for the Ravens in 2013. It’s a tough pill to swallow for fans — and media, quite frankly — who assumed such a move was no longer in play after the organization inked quarterback Joe Flacco to a six-year, $120.6 million contract that freed up cap space for the immediate future as opposed to the hefty price of a franchise tag wreaking havoc on the 2013 roster picture.
The trade makes the Ravens a worse team now, but the good news is the start of the regular season is still almost six months away.
We’re still more than six weeks out from the 2013 draft, one in which the Ravens are projected to have 12 selections by the time compensatory picks are announced at the league meetings next week.
And the Ravens are 4 1/2 months away from the start of training camp in sultry Owings Mills.
The truth is nobody knows whether this will ultimately be a good decision or not for quite some time. That the Ravens look like losers on March 11 doesn’t really matter. But that doesn’t eliminate the same sinking feeling experienced over the last few years when the likes of Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Ben Grubbs, and Jarret Johnson parted ways with the organization.
In fact, to judge this decision based solely on trading Boldin for a sixth-round pick is an incomplete and shortsighted look before we see how the cap space saved is ultimately used.
Will the Ravens take that $6 million to explore a deep market of left tackles in hopes of finding a long-term solution at a critical position that’s experienced several years in limbo? Does Baltimore take a look at a deep free-agent class of wide receivers with its new-found cap space?
Could general manager Ozzie Newsome use his heavy collection of picks to explore a trade for an established — but younger — wide receiver in a similar manner to when he traded third- and fourth-round picks to the Arizona Cardinals in return for Boldin and a fifth-round choice three years ago? Do the Ravens look to the first two rounds of the draft for a potential franchise wide receiver?
The possibilities are endless and, of course, not all outcomes are necessarily favorable as it’s possible this move blows up in the organization’s face as the Ravens and Newsome are far from infallible.
The move doesn’t come down to one draft pick or one wad of cash or even one particular player replacing the slot receiver. While Boldin’s production is unlikely to be matched by the increased use of internal options such as Dennis Pitta and Tandon Doss, that doesn’t mean the pair won’t be part of an overall solution that makes the Ravens better in the long run.
The rationale appears fuzzy now as the offseason is just getting underway, but Newsome and the Baltimore front office have earned the benefit of the doubt just five weeks after winning Super Bowl XLVII. The one thing that’s certain is that a number of plans and options have been discussed; this wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to Boldin balking at the suggestion of a $2 million pay cut.
Plans were already in motion for this scenario to play out, so the Ravens will now look to the future just like they did after losing countless veteran players over the years. And before panicking, ask yourself just how many of those departures looked like they would sting before the Ravens came out on the other end smelling like roses.
Yes, Monday was one of the gloomier days in recent memory for the Super Bowl champion Ravens. Many media and fans are already saying the Ravens will deeply regret this move without seeing how the money is spent and how resources are allotted in building the 2013 roster.
Past glory doesn’t guarantee future success, but the front office didn’t suddenly become incompetent in the aftermath of Super Bowl XLVII. And as good as Boldin was for three years in Baltimore, his best days continue to rapidly move behind him and a $6 million price tag just didn’t add up in the Ravens’ minds — whether you agree or not.
Younger and faster is the name of the game the Baltimore offense will be preaching under offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.
How it all takes shape remains to be seen.
It’s a scary proposition delving into the unknown, especially when letting go of a reliable and safe commodity like Boldin. It’s the kind of move that looks like a big loser at first blush.
But the season doesn’t start on March 11 and this is the time of year when Newsome shines. It doesn’t matter how bad the move looks right now.
Check back with me over the weekend of the draft and at the start of training camp and, most importantly, in early September.
Because the last time I checked, the Ravens don’t play any games in March.