Given his salary demands and injury history, a third-round pick always seemed about right for Anquan Boldin, and the Baltimore Ravens ponied up, acquiring Boldin on Friday, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
So Boldin, long rumored to be upset with his contract situation as an Arizona Cardinal, will move to the AFC North to be Joe Flacco's No. 1 receiver. The nitty gritty: The Cardinals get Baltimore's third- and fourth-rounders in April's draft in exchange for Boldin and Arizona's fifth-rounder.
What does this do to Boldin's fantasy value? Well, on the one hand, he's now the favorite to lead his team in receptions; he's an undisputed No. 1 receiver, out from under the shadow of Larry Fitzgerald. But on the other hand, he leaves the Cardinals' high-flying passing attack for a squad that prefers to run. How stark was the contrast between these teams in 2009? On average, Arizona threw it 37 times per game for 262.5 yards, while Baltimore threw it 32 times per game for 227.3 yards. In terms of play calling, that translated to a 1.62 pass-play-to-run-play ratio for the Cardinals, second-highest in the league behind only the Colts, and a 1.09 ratio for the Ravens, eighth-lowest in the league. While it's not outside the realm of possibility that as Flacco matures and Boldin comes on board, the Ravens could throw more, I feel safe in saying Baltimore will have a more run-heavy attack in '10 than Boldin is used to.
Also realize that Boldin is nobody's idea of a deep threat. He's a strong route-runner and a very tough player, but he's not suddenly going to assume Fitzgerald's all-around upside now that he's elsewhere. He'll get a ton of looks, but not that many of them will be bombs. Now this is a receiver who's really good in the red zone. He might have caught only four touchdown passes in '09, but he scored 20 in '07 and '08 combined, and 16 of those came from in the opponent's red zone. (Whether or not he'll steal those red zone scores from runners such as Ray Rice or Willis McGahee is an interesting question, but I'm not going to downgrade Rice on this news.) I can't view Boldin as a No. 1 fantasy receiver in a 10-team league, but I can easily see slotting him in the 15 to 20 area. Remember also that Boldin has missed time in each of the past three seasons because of injury.
Does Flacco see a significant bump? I don't think so. Before this signing, I had Flacco rated No. 14 among quarterbacks, and I still think that's the correct neighborhood for him. Yes, he played hurt in the second half last season, and yes, he made the most out of a thin receiving corps when he was healthy, scoring double-digit fantasy points in six of the Ravens' first seven games. The fact remains, though, that he finished 18th in fantasy points among signal-callers for the season, and there are an awful lot of good quarterbacks in the league. Could I see maybe bumping Flacco above Jay Cutler, whom I currently have a couple of spots higher? Maybe. But I find it tough to believe I could justify Flacco in the top 10. Also, this move does leave Derrick Mason's future in question. With Donte' Stallworth also recently signed by the Ravens, Mason might be moving on.
Finally, there's what's left in Arizona. Fitzgerald already sees near-constant double-teams, so I don't anticipate that the Boldin trade changes his value. His biggest variable is whether Matt Leinart (or a veteran that the Cardinals sign to compete with Leinart) can get him the ball. But Steve Breaston and Early Doucet figure to get a crack at Boldin's No. 2 receiving spot. Breaston's is the name you know after he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in '08, but Doucet seemed ready to break out after two big playoff games this January. For the moment, I give the nod between those two guys to Breaston, but if the Cardinals get good quarterback play next season, each of those guys are going to be owned in most fantasy leagues.