This week could bring clarity on Jim Caldwell's status, more second guessing on Anquan Boldin

As 49ers play on, Ravens still pondering changes to John Harbaugh's staff

January 13, 2014|By Jeff Zrebiec | The Baltimore Sun

When the Ravens' brain trust gathered at owner Steve Bisciotti's home in Florida over the weekend, they began to formulate plans designed to get the organization back in the postseason after a one-year absence.

Many of those plans are a couple of months away from coming to fruition as free agency doesn't start until March 11 and the first day of the NFL draft isn't until May 8.

But some other decisions, starting with the composition of John Harbaugh’s coaching staff, could become clearer this week with the AFC and NFC championship matchups now set.

The San Diego Chargers’ loss to the Denver Broncos frees up the Chargers’ offensive coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt, to accept a head coaching job if one is offered.

Why is that significant to the Ravens?

Like Whisenhunt, Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell interviewed for both the Detroit Lions' and Tennessee Titans’ head coaching vacancies. According to multiple reports, the Lions want to hire Whisenhunt and a deal could be imminent.

That would seemingly leave Caldwell with one more head-coaching option in Tennessee, as the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings – two other teams looking for a head coach – haven’t expressed interest in him to this point. It would also get the Ravens closer to having to make their own decision about whether Caldwell will stay on as their offensive coordinator.

The Ravens have been mum on Caldwell’s status, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. They are letting the interview process play out without interfering in deference to Caldwell. But until they declare that Caldwell is back in his current capacity, if he doesn’t get a head-coaching job, the speculation that the Ravens are considering making a change at offensive coordinator will persist.

The coming week will also bring more second guessing about the Ravens’ decision to trade veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers in March for a sixth-round draft pick. While the Ravens clearly missed a chain-moving physical receiver who is a threat in the red zone and on third down, Boldin has flourished under Jim Harbaugh.

Boldin caught eight passes for 136 yards in the 49ers’ 23-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday and provided a physical and vocal presence that the Ravens lacked all year. Boldin will undoubtedly be one of the focuses this week as San Francisco prepares for a third matchup with the Seattle Seahawks this season.

By now, Ravens fans know the story. Caught in a salary-cap crunch and needing to rebuild their defense, the Ravens didn’t feel like they could afford to keep Boldin, his $6 million base salary and his $7.5 million cap hit. They tried to get Boldin to accept a $2 million pay cut and predictably after his dominant postseason, he balked.

So before releasing him, the Ravens front office called around the league to see if anybody had any interest in trading for a 33-year-old receiver entering the final year of his contract. The Vikings were interested and offered a seventh-round pick. As it turned out, John Harbaugh called his brother, Jim, and the 49ers were interested, too. They offered a sixth-round selection, which got the deal done.

And now, with the 49ers on the brink of playing in a second straight Super Bowl, and Boldin occupying a starring role, the Ravens will hear over and over again how they shouldn’t have made the deal.

Nevermind that, publicly, the team’s top decision makers have expressed no such regrets. They point out that the money saved went to signing guys like Elvis Dumervil and Daryl Smith, two integral parts of their 2013 defense. But that won’t be part of the dialogue this week, not with Boldin and the 49ers still playing and the Ravens in the midst of preparing for their offseason.

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