And when it came to addressing the loss of wide receiver Anquan Boldin ….
"We probably weren’t able to do that quite the same way with Anquan, unfortunately," coach John Harbaugh said at Tuesday's end-of-the-season press conference.
After being traded to the San Francisco 49ers for a sixth-round pick, Boldin caught 85 passes for 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns. The catches and receiving yards were more than he ever produced in a season in his three-year run with the Ravens.
Wide receiver Torrey Smith came within 74 yards of setting the Ravens' single-season receiving record, but the Ravens missed Boldin's impact in clutch situations. The Ravens finished 20th on third downs and ranked near the bottom of the NFL in the red zone.
"As a coach, you just can’t get caught up in that. You can’t look back," Harbaugh said. "I’m talking to the fans here. I’m watching guys that left here and watching them make plays for other teams. Of course, I’m thinking the same thing you’re thinking: ‘Man, it’d be great if he was making that play for our team.’ It’s human nature [that] you feel that way about it."
What really compounded the loss of Boldin was the hip injury to tight end Dennis Pitta, which sidelined him for the first 12 games. Undrafted rookie Marlon Brown has similar qualities to Boldin and caught seven touchdowns, but he didn't command the same presence or attention from defenses.
The Ravens traded Boldin in March because they wanted him to take a $2 million pay cut. Before the season, general manager Ozzie Newsome rationalized the loss of Boldin by saying the cap savings was used to add Elvis Dumervil and safety Michael Huff and helped bring in defensive end Chris Canty, defensive tackle Marcus Spears and linebacker Daryl Smith. By the end of the season, Huff and Spears were no longer on the team after being released midseason.
"With the cap restrictions, you take the money, they go from one person to another person that we added, and those guys were making plays for us," Harbaugh said. "We spent to the cap. It’s not like we didn’t spend the money. You’ve just got to do the best you can in this salary cap era of being the strongest team you can for the money that you’re allotted, and hopefully, it works out. That’s really the reality of it.”