Anquan Boldin was a major reason why the Baltimore Ravens, and not the San Francisco 49ers, won the Super Bowl. And now, he will be helping the 49ers on their quest to a championship.
According to multiple sources, Boldin has been shipped off to San Francisco, the team he and the Ravens beat in Super Bowl 47. Boldin was a huge factor in Baltimore's Super Bowl run, making great catches while torching opposing defenses and catching four touchdowns.
He stepped up when the Ravens needed him to, and that was a huge factor in the Ravens prevailing at the end of the season. But they shipped him off for a sixth-round pick that is likely to miss the 53-man roster, which seems quite ridiculous.
Joe Flacco signed the richest contract in NFL history, so the Ravens were due to have some salary concerns. However, trading Boldin for a low draft pick wasn't what Ravens fans had in mind, and while Boldin may not do well in San Francisco, the chances of the sixth-round pick (or a trade involving the pick) being more productive than Boldin is very unlikely.
So, with that said, I will grade the trade for both teams.
The 49ers had problems with receiving depth at the end of the season, as Michael Crabtree was the only go-to guy until Vernon Davis broke loose late in the playoffs. However, Colin Kaepernick now has lots of proven targets to throw to.
With Boldin and Crabtree lining up opposite each other, opponents will have to worry about two receivers who can get open, catch the ball and create matchup problems. Kaepernick was able to make things work with Crabtree and develop chemistry with Davis, so he knows how to get on the same page with receivers.
But now, he'll have another target to throw to.
In 2011, San Francisco got to the NFC Championship game and almost won, coming short because of a Kyle Williams fumble. The 49ers rode their defense that year and got some nice throws out of Alex Smith, but he performed like a game-manager in 2011, throwing just 17 touchdowns.
Kaepernick, on the other hand, has big play ability and has what it takes to get the 49ers far. He did so in 2012, and while he had a lot of weapons to work with, his receivers could have made things easier on him.
Kaepernick threw to Michael Crabtree three consecutive times on the final drive of San Francisco's 2012 season, but if someone else had gotten open, the 49ers could have won.
Boldin can be that other person. Teams like the New York Jets (who have one great cornerback but not much depth at the position) won't be able to slow down the 49er aerial attack. Kaepernick and Boldin will have a long time to develop chemistry, and as Kaepernick showed when taking over midseason, he knows how to get receivers on the same page.
Boldin caught 65 passes for 921 yards and four touchdowns in 15 games during the 2012 season, and in the postseason, snagged 22 passes for 380 yards and four scores. Boldin has missed only four games in the last four seasons, so he isn't exactly a major candidate for injury (unlike Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams).
He has been targeted over 100 times in his last eight seasons, and is averaging 14.2 yards per catch. According to Pro Football Focus, Boldin's drop rate was under three percent, which ranks second among receivers with at least 60 catches. He gets open and gets the ball thrown to him, and when the ball is thrown to him, he catches it and makes something happen with it.
These stats, plus Boldin's clutch play, make this trade seem puzzling from Baltimore's standpoint and genius from San Francisco's. Boldin took over in the playoffs and made some huge catches while garnering the trust of his quarterback.
On one play in the fourth quarter during the Super Bowl, Flacco called an audible and threw to Boldin for a key first down. This may not seem huge, but when you consider it was third and inches and the Ravens were up by just two points, you can see how much trust Flacco had in Boldin.
Flacco inherited Boldin when he was in his third year, and Kaepernick is entering his third year. Kaepernick and Boldin have the potential to develop a strong connection and terrorize defenses, and that's something I see happening.
So, there's no reason to give the 49ers anything close to a bad grade for this genius deal.
Sometimes, there are trades that help both teams significantly. This one has a very small chance of helping the Ravens.
Maybe trading Boldin for a package of picks or some talent made sense, but trading him for one insignificant draft pick was not what Ravens fans had in mind. Flacco's contract messed up the whole offseason for the Ravens, and it cost Baltimore one of its best receivers and players here.
However, the Ravens certainly could have gotten a lot more for Boldin. Because of his playoff performance, Flacco, a mediocre quarterback by almost all means, is now the NFL's richest player. You would think Boldin, who also performed well in the playoffs, would allow Baltimore to get something back in return, but he didn't.
If the Ravens had pushed harder, I believe they could have seized at least two of San Francisco's 15 draft selections. A package of, say, a second and a fourth round pick, could have allowed Baltimore draft a good player and possibly package those picks in another trade. Instead, they have nothing here.
Boldin and Flacco had good chemistry, and Boldin also helped fellow receiver Torrey Smith get open by allowing him to get an easier matchup. According to SB Nation, Smith was not happy about the Boldin trade, and you can't blame him. This could destroy the clubhouse chemistry and frustrate some players, which enjoyed Boldin's veteran presence and production.
I understand Ozzie Newsome's desire to trade Boldin, but he settled here and did not make Ravens fans happy. Flacco won't be as effective without Boldin, and it will hurt the entire team. Unless Baltimore uses its sixth round pick on the next Tom Brady, this will not be a productive trade.
And because Baltimore is unlikely to find a hidden gem in the sixth round, it's safe to call this a bad trade for them.