BALTIMORE, Md.–The Baltimore Ravens stunned its fan base March 11 by trading veteran star receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers for a mere sixth-round draft pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Boldin, widely considered the best receiver on the team, was one of the heroes of the Ravens’ miraculous Super Bowl run. But the team decided to deal him after he refused to restructure the final year of his deal which would have resulted in a $2 million pay cut during the 2013 season. The 32-year-old receiver has been a fan favorite in Baltimore since being traded to the Ravens in 2010 so Baltimore fans obviously have mixed emotions about seeing him pushed out the door. AFRO sports writers Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley debate whether or not team management made the right decision in cutting loose the three-time Pro Bowler.
Riley: Wow! Talk about a lack of appreciation for the guy who won you a Super Bowl. Anquan was the most reliable offensive weapon for the Ravens throughout the playoffs and this is how they repay him? First, I blame quarterback Joe Flacco for this. The Ravens overpaid him with a ridiculous $120 million deal, then had the nerve to ask the one receiver who made his job easier to take a pay cut on the final year of his deal. If anything, they should have made Flacco take less money so they could pay Boldin what they were already committed to paying him. Now, who’s Flacco going to lob 50/50 jump-balls up to while desperately praying his man comes down with the ball? It won’t be Mr. Reliable in Boldin, because they just sent him to the team that was just seconds away from beating Baltimore in the Super Bowl.
Green: Only four words need to be said – IN OZZIE WE TRUST! No disrespect to you or any disgruntled Ravens fan upset that Boldin is gone, but let’s make this very clear: none of you are smarter than Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome when it comes to managing a football team. If Ozzie made the move, you’d better believe it was for damn good reason. His record speaks for its self; two Super Bowl rings, four AFC Championship appearances, and nine playoff appearances in the past 12 seasons. Trust me when I say, he knows what he’s doing.
Boldin was a great contributor to the Ravens, but business is business. The final year of his deal was going to cost too much against the cap so he had to either take the pay cut or be traded. He forced Ozzie’s hand so it is what it is.
Riley: Sure, Ozzie is the man. One of the most respected GMs in the league. But that doesn’t explain who’s going to bail Flacco out next season when he needs a big catch. Outside of Boldin, there weren’t any other Pro Bowl-caliber receivers on the roster. Third-year receiver Torrey Smith is an explosive speedster but Boldin was the go-to guy when they needed a possession catch to move the chains. They’re going to need him in 2013 and it wont be easy filling the void he leaves. Plus, Flacco just started to get really comfortable with Boldin after taking two seasons to gain chemistry with him in 2010 and 2011. Even if they sign another premier receiver, it could set Flacco back while he learns to play with the potential new weapon. They should have just paid Boldin and secured their chances of making a repeat run at the Super Bowl title. This only hurt their chances while strengthening the chances of the 49ers.
Green: I didn’t want to have to go here but let’s be honest about everything – Boldin actually lied to Ravens fans. He told reporters fresh after winning the Super Bowl that if he can't play in Baltimore next year, he would retire because, in his own words, “once you’re a Raven, you’re always a Raven.” He stood in front of reporters and told us how at this point in his career it’s not about the money or the individual statistical accomplishments. All he said he wanted to do was win as a Raven. But the moment Ozzie Newsome comes to him about taking a pay cut to help the team clear more money against the salary cap, he switches up and said he’s preparing for free agency.
Well, he made his bed now he’ll lay in it. Instead of being released to free agency for nothing, Ozzie was savvy enough to get an extra draft pick out of the situation. And for everyone who thinks Flacco’s contract was responsible, they’re just mistaken. Flacco’s deal was structured so that it will only cost the Ravens $6.8 million against the 2013 salary cap, while Boldin’s final year on his deal reportedly would have cost a $7.5 million against the cap. A 32-year-old receiver past his prime shouldn’t be accounting for more money against the cap than a 28-year-old Super Bowl MVP quarterback in his prime.
Besides, restructuring the final years of deals is common in the NFL. New England Patriots star Tom Brady just restructured his deal during the final year of his contract to help his team. Flacco will more than likely be asked to restructure his back-loaded deal in the future, too. Either get with the program or watch genius-minded GMs like Ozzie Newsome find a way to move on without you.