Ravens Have Good Shot At The Missing Piece: Boldin

April 19, 2009|By RICK MAESE | RICK MAESE,rick.maese@baltsun.com

One week from now, we'll have a much better understanding of what the Ravens' roster will look like next season. But you don't have to wait for the first couple of rounds of the NFL draft to see how the Ravens could make the biggest upgrade, how they could take a pretty good team and immediately make it one of the league's very best.

Anquan Boldin, the Arizona Cardinals' disgruntled wide receiver, represents the Ravens' missing link, and they're wise to pursue him aggressively.

The way it stands now, it certainly appears as if there are two likely options for Boldin: an additional year in Arizona or a new friendship with Joe Flacco.

On Thursday night, Boldin told Michael Irvin on his Dallas radio show that he felt "change is necessary."

"I just want to get it resolved," Boldin told the Cowboys Hall of Famer. "It's been going on way too long."

Speaking to reporters in Florida at a charity function one night later, he backed off those comments slightly. "I didn't say a trade was necessary. I just want something to get resolved," Boldin said. "It's something that's gone on long enough."

So Arizona is still in the picture. As for the rest of the NFL, each passing day there appear to be fewer teams who would be in the hunt. Let's go down the list. Besides the Ravens, who are expected to make some type of offer, who else might put in a bid? Keep in mind, the Cardinals are reportedly expecting at least a first- and a third-round pick in return.

The Eagles? They had 12 draft picks last week, but parted ways with a first- and a fourth-rounder Friday to obtain tackle Jason Peters from the Bills. While they have another first-round pick available, it's not likely they'll want to add a second big contract.

Giants? They need a wide receiver, but they're on record saying they have no intention of parting with two picks.

Cowboys? They have no first-rounder, and by all indications, they're sitting this one out.

Chiefs? They have the No. 3, which they're not giving up for Boldin. Besides, there's no way the Cards want a pricey high pick.

Dolphins? Bill Parcells is hoarding his picks like the last piece of birthday cake.

Titans? Their first-round offering might be too low - the 30th pick - and Boldin wouldn't be dying to join a run-first offense.

Jaguars? They're about to lock up Torry Holt to a multiyear deal.

Vikings? They made a run at T.J. Houshmandzadeh but don't seem eager to pay the ante required here.

Redskins? They have only five picks and nothing in the second and fourth. So if they really wanted to dish a first and third, they would be twiddling their thumbs until midafternoon next Sunday.

Rams or 49ers? Boldin won't be moved to another NFC West team.

You can see how the Ravens' odds have significantly improved. They haven't publicly committed to anything, so speculation about two high picks might be premature. But the Ravens' hand looks good right now, if the Cardinals do pull the trigger on a trade.

For the Ravens, it would be an expensive move but one that would pay off in a variety of ways. For starters, it would take some of the guesswork out of the draft. It seems clear the Ravens covet a receiver - which is among their least successful positions in the draft - but it's less clear whether they could land a real contributor with the 26th pick.

The Ravens are primed for a playoff run immediately, and they need an impact player immediately. Perhaps some of this draft's lesser receivers will grow into playmakers down the road, but they aren't ready to step in to make the Ravens better in Week 1.

Boldin is worth sacrificing that first-round pick. And because this draft is largely about adding depth for the Ravens, Boldin's worth a third-rounder, too.

We know this because Boldin wouldn't simply upgrade the Ravens at receiver. It improves their quarterback, who was unable last season to display his full arsenal.

Explaining why so many high-pick receivers turn into busts, Eric DeCosta, the Ravens director of player personnel, explains that sometimes a receiver is only as good as the man throwing him the ball. It works both ways. Your quarterback looks a lot better when you have a receiver who can bump and run, break free at the line, turn a simple slant into a long score.

In this league, you go with the sure thing whenever possible. And in Boldin, the Ravens would be getting a player who represents the difference between a team that wants to be among the league's elite, and one that is.

They should offer whatever it takes. There aren't many teams that seem in position to outbid them.

And if the Ravens are successful in adding Boldin, there won't be many teams who can outplay them either.

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