When the Baltimore Ravens lost tight end Dennis Pitta to a season-ending hip injury, the knee-jerk reaction was that the Ravens now must be regretting the trade of wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers. But that's not general manager Ozzie Newsome's reaction.
“The acquisitions of Elvis Dumervil and Michael Huff are a direct result of the money we saved from that contract,” Newsome told the MMQB's Peter King. “And other guys we got -- Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Daryl Smith -- were helped by the savings. So if you ask the question, you can’t just say, ‘Do you wish you kept him?’ You also have to look at the unintended consequences of your actions.”
The math backs up what Newsome is saying. The Ravens opened up $6 million in cap space by trading Boldin. The combined cap number for the Ravens' new defensive starters signed in March -- Dumervil, Huff and Canty -- is $5.35 million.
The biggest problem for me is the Ravens could have freed up money other ways to keep Boldin. They could've cut fullback Vonta Leach in March (they eventually did in June), which would've given Baltimore the necessary $3 million in cap space to sign Dumervil. The Ravens could've asked linebacker Terrell Suggs or defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to restructure their deals, but that would've increased their cap numbers in future years. The Ravens could've asked Jacoby Jones to reduce his $4.9 salary-cap number, which is a big chunk of cap room if he ends up being a returner and No. 3 receiver again. The Ravens could've released linebacker Jameel McClain (designating him for a failed physical), which would free up $3 million.
What it comes down to is this: there were ways the Ravens could've signed those defensive players and still kept Boldin. Even though Boldin was never a 1,000-yard receiver for the Ravens, Joe Flacco depended on him in clutch situations. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Boldin led the Ravens with 43 targets on third down this season (including the playoffs) and ranked seventh among wide receivers with 29 catches on third down.
While Boldin lacked speed, he fought for passes and became Flacco's security blanket in the playoffs. Flacco trusted Boldin so much that he would throw the ball to him even when he wasn't open. With Pitta out, Flacco doesn't have that level of confidence in any of his current receivers.
Newsome, though, has built a stellar reputation for making the right calls on these types of tough decisions. I still feel, when looking at all of the Ravens' changes this offseason, the loss of Boldin is going to be the toughest one for the defending Super Bowl champions.