Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

11 Mar 2013

Ravens Trade Boldin to 49ers

According to Aaron Wilson, the Ravens have traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the other clan of Harbaughs for a sixth-round pick.

Given that the Ravens were probably going to have to release Boldin, getting something for him makes some sense. The 49ers continue to pile up wide receivers, and it'll be interesting to see how their depth chart sorts out after Michael Crabtree. Does A.J. Jenkins get a second redshirt year?

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 11 Mar 2013

53 comments, Last at 13 Mar 2013, 9:25am by Anonymousse


by Anonymous2 (not verified) :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 4:24pm

I guess this means Jacoby Jones will start next year?

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 4:39pm

It's hard to say they paid too much, what I do query is whether he's the type of player the niners need. Unless Jenkins improves massively (and this is hardly a vote of confidence) or Manningham recovers quickly the niner receivers will continue to struggle to stretch the field vertically. On the other hand there were times last year when it seemed like Kaepernick had absolutely no confidence that any of the receivers other than Crabtree would actually catch the ball if he hit them in the hands. Boldin should help with that.

by opticallog :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 4:42pm

He'll be a substantial upgrade over Randy Moss, in the role Moss was actually filling, as opposed to the one everyone thought Moss was filling.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 5:11pm

Right on all counts. Only question now is if Mike Florio will spend the whole season making predictions of huge break-out performances for Boldin like he did last year with Moss. I think it was like Week 10 before he finally gave up the notion that Moss was the same player as 5 years ago and would torch somebody for 150 yards and 3 TDs some game.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 11:30am

Well, I'd rather ask the telemarketer his football opinions that listen to Florio's. Peter King is an enlightened one compared to him.

Notwithstanding Florio's other good journalistic qualities.

FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 5:00pm

I don't disagree with anything you said, but it really sounds like you're talking about the Rams or Jaguars instead of a team that almost won the Super Bowl.

by CBPodge :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 5:30am

Yeah, he fits a need for them to push for a Super Bowl in the next season or two. I don't think he's necessarily a great signing or does much different to what they have already, but he'll be a good #2, and at $6m a year he's probably on a little less money than they'd have got him for in free agency. The Niners have so many draft picks that losing a 6th rounder is basically nothing to them. Seems like one of those deals which is good for both teams (although I imagine the Ravens would have liked to keep him at a lower salary).

As a Rams fan though, this one doesn't really concern me. We're a season or two away from being competitive, and by then Boldin will likely be gone - he was never fast, and at some point he's going to effectively become a slow, undersized TE.

Interesting if the Niners can get a Super Bowl with him though - Hall of Famer? I mean, he's obviously not, but he'd have three Super Bowl appearances and two rings with three different teams, which is the sort of thing HoF voters love.

by B44 (not verified) :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 4:59pm

Good deal for SF, answering Seattle's acquisition of Harvin. It reminds me of the Falcon trade for Asante Samuel last year.

by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 5:19pm

anyone who watches the ravens regularly can tell you that he is simply nothing special as a receiver anymore. he'll be 33 next october, and while he was never much of an athlete coming into the nfl, at this point he is basically a slug with very good hands. his receiving numbers the last few years have been more representative of the ravens' total inability to draft and develop receiving talent than anything else. at nearly 7 million dollars, he had to go.

by Deelron :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 6:25pm

What? He ranked 29th in DYAR and 32nd in DVOA during the regular season, not that he's doesn't have issues (few players don't), he seems like exactly the kind of player a team who is in contention right now (a solid, effective 2/3 on a short term deal) should and could use and try to acquire.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 7:10pm

They're basically renting a so-so No.1 (but absolutely a No.1) wideout for 7 million dollars and a 6th round pick. Given that Kaepernick has about the same skill set as Flacco (big arm, iffy accuracy) while in the pocket, I would think this works out very well for San Francisco. If they want to stretch the field they have Vernon Davis.

by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 9:36pm

if you're a niners fan and think boldin is whatever a number 1 is, then I have a bridge to sell you. he has never been the number 1 receiver for the ravens even. torrey smith is the split end, and boldin basically plays in the slot most of the time because he's incapable of getting separation against cornerbacks. and before torrey, the 36 year old derrick mason, in his last season before being traded to the jets and getting cut, was the split end--managing to put up equal standard stats and vastly better advanced stats as compared to boldin despite playing the harder position and generally drawing the opposition's top corner.

and as for the specious argument that DYAR/DVOA settles the matter, even the guys who created dvoa openly admit that it's nigh-useless for comparing receivers across the league because of how dependent they are on the rest of the offense and on how the defense chooses to play them. does anybody seriously think golden tate is the 18th best receiver in football? how about lance moore, elite top 5 receiver? or brandon stokley or domenik hixon?

I'm not saying boldin is terrible. at this point in this career he's a perfectly serviceable slot receiver with reliable hands, but a game-changer he isn't. and he's had the benefit of catching passes from a very good--though probably not 'elite'-- quarterback with a pretty good deep threat (last season 2 of them), tight end, and running back to keep defenses honest. And he's only going to get worse as he gets older. I will personally be amazed if boldin has much more than 600 yards receiving next season.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 10:34am

If they got 600 out of Boldin they'd call that a huge win because Randy Moss had 434 last season. He's not going to be asked to carry the load--they've got Crabtree and Vernon Davis. He looks to be the perfect possession type of receiver for them.

by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 1:38pm

so they paid randy moss like 2 million dollars, which is probably not horrible value for what they got. Now you're saying if they pay boldin 6 million and he does slightly better than moss, that it's a huge win? 6 million dollars will get you a lot in the nfl. the only way this deal makes sense financially is if the team literally thinks there's nobody likely to be available in free agency who could play slot receiver and be a 3rd/4th option for less than 6 million dollars. that seems far-fetched.

Nobody's going to break the bank for Danny Amendola. Or steve breaston, and both of them are more than capable of playing that role.
Same for Austin Collie, though he's had health concerns.
You could probably get reggie bush for much less than that, and he's a very good pass receiver and jack of all trades.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 9:21pm

Boldin is essential a #1A WR rather than a true #1. I won't argue that. That still makes him very valuable to a team that has a true #1 in Crabtree and one of the best TEs in Davis. As the third option to defend in the passing game, it's a great deal for SF - only giving up a low round pick who likely wouldn't contribute much anyway. (Or fourth option if you consider Kaepernick's running threat.) I thought the Harvin trade stupid for Seattle. I think this is a great trade for SF.

by tomdrees :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 5:22pm

Boldin will supplant Moss in the "old guy who Colin Kaepernick is overlooking even though he's open in the end zone" role.

by Gus (not verified) :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 5:41pm

Peter King is ripshit about this on twitter. It's rather hilarious.

by JonFrum :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 5:45pm

Boldin's output last year matched up well with Brandon Lloyd. I'm not tying up that much money in Brandon Lloyd.

Question - who won't be with the team because Boldin ate up that much cap room? When a safety gets hurt and they have to turn to a scrub because they signed Boldin, will anyone put two and two together?

by David :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 6:32pm

Alex Smith

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 6:22pm

Flacco obviously developed a good rapport with Boldin by the end of last season, so it'll probably take some time for Flacco to sync up with the next WR up (Laquan Williams? Tandon Doss? Tommy Streeter? Deonte Thompson?). A combo of Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith is obviously threatening, but Jones still isn't much of a WR.

Boldin should fit good with the 49ers, his downfield blocking is especially devastating. But as other posters have said, his regular season performance was very mediocre. Slowest WR in the league.

by Deelron :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 6:33pm

His regular season performance last season compares very well (according to FOs advanced stats) to say, Torry Smith. I get he's old and notably slower then he used to be but to criticize his results of last year just doesn't seem to hold up unless the expectation is/was a #1 receiver.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 6:51pm

Well he would be getting paid like a #1 WR. He's more of a possession receiver now who is good in the slot but rarely gets separation on the outside. T. Smith is obviously younger and considered raw coming out of college so he's expected to improve, while Boldin is on the decline. I don't mean that a criticism of Boldin, that's just what I observed as his strengths and weaknesses. I don't think his regular season production matched his salary, and the Ravens are still pressed for cap space.

If the Ravens can use that money they freed up to sign a good LT and ILB (Ellerbe), it'll be a good deal.

by Deelron :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 7:56pm

My problem is with the generalization that performance has to match play, particularly on a one year basis. Boldin is certainly on the decline but on what is essentially a one year deal, the risk is minimal and teams that are in contention for a playoff spot should be keeping guys who can still perform at his level. If the reports were true he was worth keeping around for 4 million, but not for 6, and that seems a shame for a team that just won the Super Bowl and just signed their QB to a record deal.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 9:52pm

Agreed that it is a shame they didn't keep Boldin to try to defend the crown, but to the Ravens credit they operate consistently regardless of the outcome the previous season. They lock up franchise guys, let average players they drafted walk, and part with veterans 1 year early rather than 1 year too late. The players they let go have rarely done much to make the front office look bad, so they seem to have a good track record for knowing when to cut ties. As recently as the 2011 offseason they cut Derrick Mason and Todd Heap, who were still very productive, and both those players fell off a cliff.

by theslothook :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 11:12pm

I'd say they let ray lewis hang around a year too late - and you only have to watch the sb to realize how it could have cost them dearly. That said, your mostly right and with lewis, he was more of a legacy signing anyways.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 9:51am

There's a lot of revisionist thinking there, though.

Lewis' weaknesses were exposed in the 49ers game, but his strengths were exposed in the Patriots game. It doesn't matter how well you match up with the 49ers if you never get there.

by dcaslin :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 12:35pm

I've generally thought whole "emotional momentum" type stuff was crap, but I think that Lewis was at worst a net average team presence this year. Some of his play was not great, but the whole "It's Ray Lewis retiring, we need to win the Super Bowl!" thing probably did actually did help the Ravens. Add it all up and it's better than trying to quietly cut him in the preseason and getting no epic story out of it. Also, the talk radio fan backlash would have been enormous if he'd been cut (much like if they'd let Flacco walk post-SB). Heck, a ton of people are even super pissed about Boldin leaving, and almost everyone recognizes it was a reasonable idea.

by jonnyblazin :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 2:17pm

I'm not sure the Ravens would have gotten through the Broncos and Pats without Lewis. Having a de facto coach on the field is extremely valuable when facing the no-huddle attacks of Manning and Brady, not to mention he made a bunch of tackles in those games. Against the power and speed of the 49ers he was obviously no match, though.

by theslothook :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 2:42pm

PFf graded him negatively in all of the playoff games - tackles be damned. Sure, his emotional behavior and leadership skills may have had a tangible effect, but I just think(not coincidentally) the real story was ngata playing better, elerbe getting healthier, the o line changes, and joe flacco playing out of his mind.

by jonnyblazin :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 3:58pm

True, but what about the defensive play calling, audibles, and pre-snap adjustments made by Lewis vs. the no-huddle? Its not just leadership and emotional behavior that is intangible.

by Passing Through (not verified) :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 4:32pm

Defense is not why the Ravens won the DEN and SF games. They won in spite of defense in both of those games.

by theslothook :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 4:46pm

I think the defense played ok in both games and got extremely lucky with some no calls(their games against Indy and NE were stellar). That said, yeah, lewis does make sure the calls against no huddle are smart - but we can't say whether that makes up for the fact that hes avg in the run defense and a serious limitation in the passing game.

Again, I don't want to get on the ravens too much - but i think it's pretty clear had ray lewis not been named ray lewis - he never would have been retained this year. They absolutely would have cut him and gone with a different player. More so, I doubt he even plays as many snaps as he did if his name wasn't ray lewis. But I think the backlash against lewis is just silly and cynical. I don't think this sb run adds anything to lewis, it's just a nice ending to a stellar transcendent career.

by jonnyblazin :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 4:58pm

Agreed. But to the previous poster, the Ravens defensive DVOA vs. Denver was -30%, so it was a good defensive game. Special teams, not so much, but they held the Broncos in check for 5+ quarters, to an average of 4.6 yards per play and forced 3 TOs. Denver was the #2 offense in the league per DVOA.

by Passing Through (not verified) :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 5:02pm

That wasn't how I remembered the game, but I went back and looked at the box score and it seems like you're right. I forgot about the 2 returns for TDs.

by theslothook :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 5:08pm

Actually, all three of manning's tds came in extremely tight coverage - especially the one to moreno. Ravens coverage that game was outstanding and their run defense was stellar.

by JimZipCode :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 2:29am

Worked out ok, though.

by Peepshowmopguy (not verified) :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 7:19pm

This reminds me of the SEA trade for Deon Branch (without the 1st rounder), and I expect similar results.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 8:11pm

The expected return from a sixth round pick would probably struggle to make a team's roster. Teams rarely get much from sixth rounders, how is Boldin going to be worse than that?

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 10:41am

Branch averaged right at 700 yards per season his first two years in Seattle. San Fran would be happy with far less than that out of Boldin. He's replacing a guy who had just over 400 yards last year... it's all upside for them.

by Michael LaRocca (not verified) :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 8:24pm

Cutting Moss and signing Boldin is definitely an upgrade.

by theslothook :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 8:25pm

I think with this move, the 49ers have basically told everyone they want to go all in on 2013. If that is the case, I'd seriously consider franchising gholdston and trading for revis and having them both play out one year deals...

If you are going to go all out, make it a bang

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 8:50pm

How does trading a sixth round pick away when you have approximately ten higher picks translate to declaring that they're all in for 2013? It says that they want to win next year but I don't see how this impacts their long term potential in any meaningful way.

Besides, I think they missed the deadline for franchising Goldson and believe that he wants and will get too much money, they'll draft a safety (I don't buy the current Ed Reed rumours, I think he'll stay a Raven).

As for Revis, I doubt he'll move until after the draft, it will be that long before anyone has a real clue if he's healthy enough to gamble on.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 9:46pm

This is a draft that favors defense, and, contrary to what a lot of people may think, that is what the Niners need to concentrate on, it seems to me. It's a particularly great year for them to have a boatload of picks.

by Yaguar :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 11:20pm

I think the Niners defense could become terrifying if they drafted a truly excellent big man to put up front.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 8:16am

They just can't count on a Justin Smith proceeding through his 30s, still being Justin Smith for every snap of the game. It would not surprise me if his performance significantly declined next fall.

by Rick S (not verified) :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 11:00pm

The compensation was low (6th) because of the cap number...

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 11:08pm

And how does that affect the long term potential of the 49ers?

by CBPodge :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 5:34am

I don't imagine it does, hugely. Boldin isn't likely to be about for more than a year or two.

by theslothook :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 2:45pm

Maybe this move doesn't force the 49ers to go all in, but it does signify they went all in for a couple reasons. Boldin is old and surely a 1 year rental regardless of what you think of him. Such a move basically moves AJ jenkins down the depth chart again - to possibly out of the starting lineup completely. That is 2 straight years hes not playing which really might affect his long run potential.

And furthermore, boldin is a decent upgrade - not some stellar receiver. The fact that the 49ers sought out this marginal upgrade tells me they are thinking sb in 2013. If that is the case, they really ought to gear themselves even more and go crazy. That's my impression reading the tea leaves.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 3:10pm

My understanding of the phrase 'all in' is that you suggest that the 49ers are selling out their chances of winning in future years in order to win next year. I don't think that is true.

Are they trying to win the superbowl next year? Yes, of course, every team that isn't actively rebuilding should share that goal and make moves to maximise their chances.

You have to take the 49ers roster into account, they have entered the playoffs the past two years with only Crabtree as an effective wide receiver. It's too early to know if Manningham and Kyle Williams are going to be fully recovered from injury and it would be risky to rely on AJ Jenkins at this stage. So they traded one of their sixth round picks for a solid veteran number two who has never relied on his speed and so hopefully should be viable for at least one more year. I just don't see that as going 'all in'.

by theslothook :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 4:40pm

Why does it have to be selling out the future? I think we can all agree in the long future boldin does absolutely nothing for the 49ers and he does eat up a roster spot that could(potentially) be given to a younger player for development(think victor Cruz). Obvious, theres no guarantees, but it does show you what mode the 49ers are in. In the second place, it isn't true that teams are all actively trying to win the sb tomorrow. That's why teams like NE have traded people like Lawyer Milloy and Deion Branch, why the broncos are considering cutting elivs dumerville and the jets are trying to trade revis. There has to be a proper weighing system between present and future.

Again, this move didn't exactly push the 49ers into a point of no return situation. I understand that. And i get its a pretty low cost move overall. I just thought it signaled their mindset which is rather different from say the ravens, pats, or steelers - who despite years of contention - didn't go out and try to get that one big veteran to put them over the edge.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Wed, 03/13/2013 - 9:25am

"Why does it have to be selling out the future?"

Because thats what "Going all in" means. It's a reference to poker, where you risk everything to win the game.

by Passing Through (not verified) :: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 4:43pm

I concur with everything you've said.

My only other thought is that the niner offense played pretty great in the Super Bowl. 470ish yards, 31 points. The turnover(s?) and the 1st and goal are the most memorable periods and they were both negative, but I think overall the O was effective.

I'm much more concerned about the defense going forward. FO has shown defense to be inconsistent, and the niner D looked pretty weak at the end after a strong year.