The Ravens made their boldest move in this year's wide receiver revitalization project by trading for Anquan Boldin, their newly appointed No. 1 target.
Capturing one of the biggest headlines on the first day of free agency, the Ravens acquired the three-time Pro Bowl player and a fifth-round pick from the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for their third- and fourth-round picks in next month's draft.
Only minutes after completing the trade, the Ravens reiterated their high expectations for Boldin by giving him a four-year, $28 million contract, which includes $10 million guaranteed.
The hope is that Boldin becomes a pivotal factor in the development of quarterback Joe Flacco and boosts the Ravens from a playoff team to a Super Bowl one.
"I'm a piece of the puzzle for [the Ravens]," Boldin told the team's Web site. "I believe I can help them, maybe get them to another level. I think I'll fit in with them. It's going to be a lot of fun being a Raven."
Team officials talked about the need to improve the talent around Flacco at the "State of the Ravens" news conference last month, and they have backed up their words. Even though they are limited by the "Final Eight" plan (they can only sign one high-priced unrestricted free agent), the Ravens have started a makeover in creative ways.
Last month, the Ravens added a deep threat by signing Donte' Stallworth, who had been cut by the Cleveland Browns. On Friday, they went after their go-to target, completing their first major player trade in two years, beating out the Kansas City Chiefs for Boldin.
Boldin, who is 6 feet 1, 217 pounds, has averaged 83 catches and six touchdowns in a career that has recently been overshadowed by Larry Fitzgerald. Now, Boldin gets his chance to once again prove he can be the top playmaking receiver on a team.
"The Ravens just got better," coach John Harbaugh said. "Anquan is a significant addition for us. He fits the personality of our team with the hard-nosed, physical way he plays. We love the way he competes. Our fans will enjoy watching him compete, and his teammates will be excited to have him with us."
Boldin, 29, is considered one of the toughest receivers in the NFL. He will make catches over the middle. He will make plays by breaking tackles. He will block on running plays.
A second-round pick out of Florida State in 2003, Boldin made an immediate impact, winning the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. His 79.2 receiving yards per game during this span rank second only to the Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith (80.3).
"I was extremely excited to get the news of our addition of Anquan Boldin," Flacco said in a statement. "Coach [Cam] Cameron called and gave me the good news. I think adding Anquan to the Ravens will not only be great for our offense, but our team as a whole."
The addition of Boldin clouds the future of Derrick Mason with the Ravens. Leading up to free agency, both sides expressed interest in a multiyear deal.
But Boldin and Mason play a similar style, so it's unclear whether the Ravens would want both players. Mason's agent didn't return messages from The Sun.
The Ravens' interest in Boldin dates to last season, but the Cardinals' asking price of first- and third-round picks was too steep. Arizona's demands dropped this offseason because Boldin turns 30 in the fall and he was entering the final year of his contract with the Cardinals.
The Ravens chose Boldin over Denver's Brandon Marshall, who is visiting Seattle after not drawing any interest from the Ravens, and free agent Kevin Walter, who later re-signed with the Houston Texans (five years, $21 million).
"I'm definitely excited," Boldin said. "For me, I've been hoping for this for a year since I first heard that the Ravens might be interested in me. I even talked with Ray [Lewis] about it a year ago."
Boldin added: "I really look at this as a great opportunity for me. They love football in Baltimore. I know that from when the Cardinals played there a few years ago. That place was loud, very impressive by the fans. The Ravens play a certain way. They play as hard and as physical as any team in the league, and I want to add to that. I think I play the way they play."
Notes: Backup defensive tackle Justin Bannan became the first Ravens free agent to sign elsewhere, reaching an agreement with the Broncos. Under the "Final Eight" plan, the Ravens can sign an unrestricted free agent to a deal similar to the one for Bannan. ... Defensive end Dwan Edwards is expected to visit the Seahawks. ... The Ravens used second-round tenders on two more restricted free agents: wide receiver Mark Clayton and guard Marshal Yanda. Wide receiver Demetrius Williams received the low tender, meaning the Ravens would get a fourth-round pick as compensation. The team had considered not tendering him. Offensive tackle Adam Terry wasn't tendered, which makes him a free agent. The Ravens could still re-sign him.