Boldin, Heap and the business of football

The debate over whether the Arizona Cardinals need a No. 2 receiver should not exist.

In a perfect NFL world, Anquan Boldin would have re-signed with the team and finished his career alongside Larry Fitzgerald, giving the Cardinals the league's best one-two punch at receiver. In a perfect world, the Cardinals' struggling pass defense would not be bracing for Boldin and the Baltimore Ravens' offense in Week 8.

Arizona, with young cornerbacks and an unreliable pass rush, has allowed 30 pass plays of at least 20 yards, third-most in the league. The Cardinals' opponents have posted a league-high 87.4 Total QBR when Arizona sends four or fewer pass-rushers, an indication opposing offenses have ample time to find open receivers. And when the Cardinals send added pressure, they still rank only 25th in Total QBR allowed.

Boldin has 27 receptions for 394 yards and two touchdowns for the Ravens this season. He had 64-837-10 in 16 games for Baltimore last season.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, keeping Boldin in Arizona wasn't realistic for reasons dating to the day Arizona signed Fitzgerald to a 2004 rookie contract with long-term ramifications. That deal, combined with Fitzgerald's stellar performance on the field, put Fitzgerald in position to leverage a second contract large enough to complicate any efforts to keep Boldin.

When Arizona traded Boldin to Baltimore in 2010, it was time for the team to get value for an asset with depreciating value to the organization, to use business terms.

The Cardinals used one of the picks received from the Boldin trade for Andre Roberts, their current starter opposite Fitzgerald. Roberts has 13 receptions for 133 yards and no touchdowns this season, less than half the production of Boldin. But third receiver Early Doucet has flourished with 26 receptions for 339 yards and two scores, pretty much the same numbers Boldin has produced this season.

And the Cardinals have gotten better production from their tight ends, including former Raven Todd Heap, a player who, like Boldin, ideally would have finished his career without changing teams.

A hamstring injury might prevent Heap from playing Sunday. Something tells me the Cardinals will regret the Boldin trade, inevitable as it became, at least for a day.