At this point of the NFL off-season we start to look back at the draft, free agency and work our way through minicamps until training camp finally arrives.
The deal made for Brandon Marshall, the Bears signing Julius Peppers, the Cowboys trading up to get Okie State WR Dez Bryant, etc. They look to be impact moves, and we talk about them often.
However, what about the trade that sent Anquan Boldin from Arizona to Baltimore?
I understand how the Ravens are perceived as a football team. We look at the defense with players like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. The offensive line, the running game of Ray Rice and the idea that QB Joe Flacco is going to continue to develop again this off-season.
They play a certain style—that wins.
But, when you take a step back and look at where Boldin fits with his new squad, isn’t it time to realize that this might be the biggest move of the entire off-season?
The play calling under Cam Cameron will change, as will the way that the Ravens attack opposing defenses in the run game and what they can now do when it comes to creating mismatches using Boldin as a weapon. He isn’t a vertical receiver in those exact terms, because he makes his money after the catch, working inside of the numbers and using a style of play that we don’t often see from the wide receiver position.
I played against Boldin during my own career, and throughout the week he was the highlight of our defensive meetings—because we had to find a way to stop him. He is a player that can align in various spots on the field and can use pre-snap movement to gain an advantage. A pain in the ass to prepare for. Don’t expect that to change, because playing Baltimore will be different than it was in the past from a game plan perspective.
And, let’s not forget about Flacco. We talk about development of QBs often when it comes to young players at this level. The quickest way to do this is? Add options at receiver. Give your QB playmakers, someone who can take a 3-step slant route, break a tackle and produce an explosive play. The Ravens have some talent at WR in Mark Clayton, Derrick Mason and the speculation that Donte’ Stallworth will become that deep ball threat for Flacco.
But, Boldin changes that dynamic. He becomes the No.1 target in the passing game and adds toughness and experience—two things that are crucial to AFC North football.
Is it a stretch to call the Boldin trade the biggest move of the entire off-season? Not if this team—which is loaded—makes it all the way to the Super Bowl in Dallas this season.
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