Whether it happens this year or the next, Anquan Boldin is going to retire a Baltimore Raven.
On Friday, Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin told NBC Sports' Erik Kuselias that, if the team releases him from his contract this offseason, he'll retire from the NFL instead of trying to continue his career elsewhere.
While, at first glance, Boldin's statement could be viewed as a threat or a knee-jerk, immature response to something that is just part of business as usual in the NFL, it's neither.
Instead, it's a confident statement from a player who is devoted to the team that just helped him win a Super Bowl ring—one which just reached the top of the professional mountain in his field of choice.
He's not saying that he's going to take his ball and go home if the Ravens make him one of their salary cap casualties. He's saying that the Ravens have been his home over the past three seasons, helped him do something so few others around the NFL can boast and, if he can't stay there, he's satisfied with where his career has taken him and he's ready to call it a day.
At 32 years old (and turning 33 in October) and having spent 10 years in the league, Boldin will likely retire after the 2013 season, should the Ravens bring him back.
While still a major contributor to Baltimore's offense, it's hard to say that Boldin is still entirely in his prime.
All but two of his seven seasons with the Arizona Cardinals ended with him having more than 1,000 receiving yards, but he's yet to reach that mark in Baltimore. He's physical—in fact, one of the most physical receivers in the league—and extremely football-smart, but he's not the fastest guy on the field and he's not going to get any faster as he gets older.
Despite his age and 10 seasons in the NFL, Boldin was an integral part of the Ravens' impressive 2012 season and even more impressive postseason run. Though Boldin had only four regular-season touchdowns, he added four more in the playoffs and his 22 catches for 380 yards in those four games set Ravens records.
He was also the Ravens' regular-season receiving yardage leader, with 921, as well as quarterback Joe Flacco's most reliable target, catching 65 of the 112 passes thrown his way.
Should the Ravens not have the cash to honor the final year of Boldin's contract—he's due $6 million in 2013—Flacco's job will be all the more difficult and his team's chances to repeat as Super Bowl champions will be that much slimmer.
If the Ravens have to cut Boldin in the coming weeks, it's not a slight to his talents nor to what he has contributed to the team while he's been there.
His subsequent retirement would not be a reaction to any perceived insult, but rather an acknowledgement that, if he were to keep playing, he'd only want to do so in Baltimore because he's already accomplished his ultimate goal—to be a major part of a Super Bowl-winning team.
Besides, if Boldin wanted to turn this into a direct threat to the Ravens, then retirement wouldn't be his first choice—it would be to join a team like the Cincinnati Bengals, a divisional rival, in an attempt to show the Ravens what they would be missing.
What he's really saying is a threat to the other 31 teams in the league. If the Ravens don't keep him, the rest of the league shouldn't bother courting his services because he's simply not interested.
Obviously, it helps his cause to make statements like "I won't play in another uniform" and "Baltimore is the only place I want to play" (per Pro Football Talk) because it demonstrates his loyalty—something that may be rewarded with the Ravens' loyalty in return.
Perhaps it also underscores a willingness to take a pay cut to remain with the team for what is likely his final season in the NFL. But the last thing that Boldin's stance represents is an ultimatum.
This isn't a standoff. If they do release him and he does retire, it's the biggest compliment he could pay to the Ravens. There's nowhere else he'd rather play, and he means it. The Patriots, the 49ers, the Packers—none compare to the Ravens.
While the hope is that it doesn't come to this and the Ravens can find a way to pay Boldin what he's due in 2013, there are worse things he could do in response to his release than retire.