Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Something smells familiar around here. After all, it wasn't too long ago when an NFL team put a prominent player on the trading block and suddenly the NFC North was awash in rumors?
And for good reason, as it turns out. Exactly two weeks ago, Denver shipped quarterback Jay Cutler to Chicago after considering an offer from Detroit and speaking briefly to Minnesota early in the process. Based on the tone of letters in my mailbag, we're abuzz with the possibility that a Black and Blue team could grab receiver Anquan Boldin from Arizona.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt confirmed Wednesday the Cardinals will listen to offers for Boldin, who wants a contract that Arizona doesn't seem willing to offer. The Bears can still count receiver among their personnel needs, and Minnesota aggressively pursued free agent T.J. Houshmandzadeh earlier this offseason.
I won't entirely rule out the possibility of Boldin joining Cutler in the NFC North, but there seems to be more circumstances working against it than there are in favor. Among them:
There haven't been too many estimates as to the Cardinals' asking price, but the Bears already coughed up three valuable draft choices in the Cutler deal. They don't have a first- or third-round pick to trade this year, and they don't own a first-rounder in 2010. (They do have a third-round pick this season, but it was a compensatory award and thus not eligible to be traded.) The Bears could include the No. 49 overall pick this year, but that is their only immediate ammunition and probably isn't enough.
The Vikings gutted their draft last year to acquire defensive end Jared Allen, and vice president Rick Spielman has spoken multiple times about the dangers of diminishing two consecutive drafts. It's true that the Vikings heavily pursued Houshmandzadeh, but he wouldn't have cost any draft choices. That courtship isn't necessarily an indication that the Vikings are strongly committed to upgrading their receiving corps. They considered the Houshmandzadeh opportunity to be unique in several ways. I don't doubt Boldin would help their offense and be a strong complement to Bernard Berrian, but I'm not sure it's enough of a need to give up multiple draft picks to fill. Sidney Rice, a second-round pick in 2007, should be ready to take the next step.
The Lions, if they have any interest, are hampered by the same factors that conspired against them in the Cutler sweepstakes. They own eight draft picks, but that includes the poisonous No. 1 overall choice. The Cardinals, after all, won't want their compensation to earn more than Boldin is asking for. The Lions have enough assets to get a deal done, but their across-the-board holes should preclude them from dedicating a hunk of their draft toward acquiring one receiver.
To be clear, it's without malice that I leave Green Bay out of this discussion. I think most of us would agree the Packers have a deep-enough receiving corps to allow them to sit this one out and focus on filling holes in other areas.
I can't totally rule out the possibility of an NFC North team getting involved here, but it's far from the slam dunk we saw in the Cutler discussions.