The Big Question: Is Ravens' offense elite?
March, 9, 2010
By James Walker | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Steve RuarkThe Baltimore Ravens added Anquan Boldin (center) in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals and managed to keep their two highest picks in this year's draft.» NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South
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Will the trade for three-time Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin make the Baltimore Ravens an elite offense next season?
Boldin brought up an interesting point this week during his introductory news conference with the Ravens.
Despite leaving former Arizona Cardinals teammate Larry Fitzgerald, Boldin believes he could see less coverage in Baltimore.
"The way they run the ball here is unbelievable. They're just the opposite here of what we were in Arizona," Boldin explained. "[The Ravens], they will see eight-and-nine-man fronts, and [the Cardinals] see six, seven, eight guys in the secondary. So, hopefully when guys try to stack the box, that's when I will come into play."
Boldin is the missing link that should take a decent Baltimore offense and make it great next season.
For the past year, Boldin to the Ravens was often talked about but never came to fruition. Last weekend that scary thought became a reality when Baltimore traded its third- and fourth-round picks in 2010 to Arizona for Boldin and a fifth-round pick.
Offensively, the Ravens have a versatile offensive line, a strong running game with Pro Bowl tailback Ray Rice, and a budding quarterback in Joe Flacco who is eager to reach his potential. After failed attempts in the past, the Ravens finally landed the guy who could tie everything together.
"We had some dialogue with Arizona, but nothing as extensive as it got to be on Friday starting at about noon our time," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We actually started to discuss different ways of making a trade. The other time was just a courtesy call, and every time I would make that call, 'We love Anquan, we want to keep Anquan, he is a big part of what we are getting done,' and I respected that. But this time the call was made there was a different answer to me, which started the dialogue."
For Newsome, this was a rare opportunity to cover up a past mistake.
Baltimore has one of the NFL's best front offices and doesn't miss often. But Newsome admits not taking Boldin, a second-round pick in the 2003 draft, was one of his biggest gaffes.
According to Newsome, Boldin didn't fit the team's "measurables." Boldin was previously injured in college, wasn't the tallest receiver available and ran a slow 40 time. To this day, Boldin is not considered a blazer.
Therefore, the Ravens traded out of the second round that year to move up and take quarterback Kyle Boller with the No. 19 overall pick. Boldin was taken by the Cardinals in the second round and the rest is history.
"I think in this situation I got blinded a little bit, and didn't appreciate the football player as much as I should have," Newsome said. "It took me seven years, but I finally got it right."
Boldin now comes to Baltimore with high expectations and a four-year, $28 million contract. The Ravens were one of the final eight teams in the NFL last season and lost in the divisional round to the AFC champion Indianapolis Colts.
Gene Lower/Getty ImagesAnquan Boldin should be the dangerous receiving threat the Ravens have lacked in the past.
With a stout running game and top-five defense already in tow, Baltimore's goal this offseason is to build an offense that can also win shootouts, if necessary. Boldin, with five career 1,000-yard seasons, is a major step in that direction. But there is still work to be done.
One of the underlying advantages of the Boldin trade was the fact Baltimore retained its first- and second-round draft picks this year. That offers the Ravens flexibility to continue to add to their offense.
With the No. 25 overall pick, there should be good options at receiver and tight end. Several potential offensive targets include Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham, Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate and Illinois receiver Arrelious Benn.
Baltimore also remains open to re-signing veteran receiver Derrick Mason, who could fit as the team's No. 2 receiver opposite Boldin. Both players recorded 1,000-yard seasons in 2009. Mark Clayton and Donte' Stallworth, who is returning from a year-long suspension, also are options in the passing game.
With one more receiver and perhaps another tight end added to the mix, there is not much Baltimore's offense shouldn't be able to accomplish in 2010. But the addition of Boldin takes the unit to a new level.
"I just feel like I add a piece to this offense," Boldin said. "I know one thing that I was really looking at when looking at a team is ... I wanted to go somewhere where one, I had an opportunity to win a championship -- and I feel like I have that here. Two, a place that plays defense, runs the ball well, and has a great young quarterback.
"And I think Baltimore fits that to the 'T.'"