Anquan Boldin to the Ravens
It was only a matter of time before the Cardinals and Anquan Boldin parted ways; Kurt Warner’s retirement—coupled with the impending transition to a more run-focused offense—helped lower the price to something the Ravens could justify paying for a 30-year-old receiver who’s played a full 16-game slate just once in the past six seasons.
Boldin goes from being a WR1A to Larry Fitzgerald to... well, that’s actually a pretty good question. Boldin’s 85-1,029-5 in 15 games last year was pretty similar to the 73-1,028-7 Derrick Mason put up as Baltimore’s only wideout of note. And while Mason is six years older than Boldin, he’s not going away completely. The plan is for Mason and Boldin to complement each other, joining Todd Heap and Ray Rice in a multifaceted passing attack that will prevent defenses from loading up on the Ravens’ beloved ground game.
But something has to give between the 134 targets Mason saw last year (roughly equal to his average number of looks during five seasons in Baltimore) and the 128 Boldin saw last season, down a bit from the 10 targets per game he averaged during his tenure in Arizona. Even if Joe Flacco makes the same sort of strides from Year 2 to Year 3 that he made from his rookie season to his sophomore campaign, there are still only about 500 or so balls to go around in Baltimore’s passing game.
Certainly, ancillary receivers like Mark Clayton, Donte’ Stallworth, and Demetrius Williams will be looking at reduced numbers—assuming they even make the roster at all. Wide receivers other than Mason combined for 76-1,053-5 last year, or about what Mason produced himself. Take about half of that total, mix in Mason’s numbers from a year ago, and add a bite out of Baltimore’s running back receiving numbers (149 of the Ravens’ 499 passes last season were directed at backs), and there’s a pool of roughly 1,800 yards and optimistically a dozen touchdowns—for Mason and Boldin to share. For bigger numbers, you’ll be asking the Ravens to discard their running identity and for Flacco to take a significant step up in class—from the ranks of Jay Cutler (3,666 yards) and Eli Manning (4,021) to Brett Favre (4,202) and Philip Rivers (4,254).
There’s little doubt Boldin makes the Ravens a more formidable offensive force, and given his attributes and Mason’s age he should claim a significant enough share of Baltimore’s passing game pie to make him a solid fantasy WR2 or maybe even a fringe WR1 in larger leagues. Just don’t pencil him in to rival his ex-teammate Fitzgerald and you’ll be alright; even after leaving Arizona, he’s most valuable as a fantasy wingman as opposed to an ace.