Vensel: Boldin trade better late than never

March 09, 2010|by Matt Vensel | | b free daily

Anquan Boldin kept us waiting.

Before making his debut Monday -- at least in front of the local media throng at the Castle in Owings Mills -- the Ravens' hungry new wide receiver needed to freshen up and stuff down a sandwich. Finally, a half hour after his introductory press conference was scheduled to start, Boldin entered the team's auditorium wearing a sharp, light gray suit and a determined look you usually see on Sunday afternoons.

But considering how long Baltimore has clamored for an upper-echelon receiver (no offense, Derrick Mason), the passionate athletic supporters watching from home probably didn't mind waiting a little longer to get their first glimpse of Joe Flacco's new best friend.

The Ravens finally made a big play to improve their underwhelming receiving corps, acquiring Boldin, a three-time Pro Bowler, and a fifth-round pick from the Cardinals on Friday in exchange for the team's third- and fourth-round picks in next month's NFL draft. They then quickly locked him down with a four-year, $28 million contract.

Yes, the deal actually went down after what has felt like six or seven straight offseasons of the Ravens reportedly being linked to Boldin (GM Ozzie Newsome said trade talks with Arizona never got serious in the past). Honestly, I was starting to think a trade like this would never happen.

Then again, I never thought the star of "Speed 2: Cruise Control" would tearfully give an Oscar acceptance speech. What's next in this crazy world? An Orioles pennant?

As Boldin on Monday posed for photos with Newsome, coach John Harbaugh and a purple No. 81 jersey -- sure to be popular come September -- Harbaugh was thinking exactly what you were. "That looks pretty good, doesn't it?"

So what are the Ravens getting in Boldin? With his hard-nosed style of play, he brings a running back's mentality to the receiver position. Boldin doesn't shy away from contact, loves to block, is a tough dude to tackle, and can turn routine catches into big plays. He has the speed to get downfield, too, but he's not the burner the Ravens have been missing (maybe Donte' Stallworth will fit the bill there).

Boldin is like a younger, more explosive -- but perhaps less durable -- version of Pittsburgh's Hines Ward. (I know you hate the Steelers receiver. But admit it: At least once, you've thought that he wouldn't look bad in purple.)

Another thing Newsome and the Ravens are getting from this savvy trade is flexibility. There is no longer the pressure to draft a receiver in the first round -- not that they would ever admit to feeling it. And there is no urgency to ink a new contract with Mason, who lost all of his leverage in negotiations around 7:30 Friday night.

Now the Ravens can focus on other needs -- cornerback, defensive line and tight end -- in free agency and the draft. Factor in the reasonable price it took to land Boldin, and it would have been totally acceptable for Ozzie to do cartwheels through the Castle when the deal went through.

(He didn't, though. Trust me, I asked someone.)

Newsome's latest steal said all the right things Monday. Boldin is aware he is expected to be Flacco's go-to guy, but said that he is just "a piece to this offense." He smiled when asked about blocking ("That's something I take pride in"). And he looks forward to "mixing it up" in the AFC North.

But none of his first comments in Baltimore were more, well, right, than this: "I'm seeking revenge on Pittsburgh," for beating his old team in Super Bowl XLIII.

Now that he has finally arrived, something tells me Boldin is going to fit in just fine.

Matt Vensel is a content creator for b. Follow him on Twitter, @mattvensel.

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