Unable to resolve a contract dispute with veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin, the Ravens traded him to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick, according to league sources with knowledge of the situation.
Talks between Boldin and the Ravens hit an impasse late last week after the Super Bowl champions asked him to take a $2 million pay cut off of his $6 million base salary to lower his $7.531 million hit against the salary cap. The team was on the verge of releasing Boldin last Friday, and the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver had even prepared a statement thanking fans for their support before the two sides tried one last time to reach a compromise.
The Minnesota Vikings were the other suitor for Boldin, but their offer of a seventh-round draft pick was trumped by the 49ers.
With Boldin declining the Ravens' request to lower his salary, the Ravens sent him to a 49ers team coached by Jim Harbaugh, the brother of Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Following the trade, the Ravens will gain $6 million in salary-cap space.
Boldin is currently out of the country, arriving in Senegal on Monday for a three-day relief effort. In order to finalize the deal, Boldin will have to pass a physical when he returns.
Boldin's pending departure sparked strong emotions of surprise and disappointment from his Ravens teammates, who watched the veteran grab six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown to defeat the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
“It's definitely shock,” said Ravens starting wide receiver Torrey Smith during a Super Bowl DVD viewing ceremony at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric. “That's the business every year. That's the tough part about this game. No team is ever the same, players, coaches, everything. It sucks, especially when you're close to people and you build those relationships. The family vibe we have here as a team is different than anything I've ever been around.
“It’s tough for everyone, not just myself. Obviously, it will probably mean a little more responsibility, but I had that last year and the year before that. It’s going to be hard. The biggest thing is not so much about football when you lose someone like that, a mentor, a big brother, somebody you love like a brother and would do anything for you.”
Without Boldin, 32, more responsibility will shift to Smith, a former University of Maryland standout who caught 49 passes for 855 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
The Ravens also are expected to try to bolster the receiver position through free agency and the NFL draft. St. Louis Rams free agent wide receiver Danny Amendola is among the free agents the Ravens are expected to monitor. Amendola is talented and productive, but has durability issues and is expected to command a contract similar to the $30.7 million contract recently inked by Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline.
However, there are few players in Boldin's class in terms of hands, strength and toughness.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder consistently outmuscled defensive backs, utilizing his body to box them out for 65 receptions, 921 yards and four touchdowns last season.
“Anquan was a big part of this football team, a big part of this offense, and one of the many reasons why we won the Super Bowl this year,” said quarterback Joe Flacco, who relied on Boldin in the playoffs for 22 completions, 380 yards and four touchdowns. “You lose a lot of things. You lose a leader, you lose the fire and, most of all, you lose a very good player and a who's done it over and over again. Not necessarily surprised, you see things like this happen every year in the NFL.
“It’s just the nature of the business. It almost becomes just one of those things that you got to react to and take in stride. We just got to put some faith in our young guys and hope that they step up to the table and play the way they’re capable of playing.”
Pro Bowl kick returner Jacoby Jones had three returns for touchdowns during the regular season, also catching 30 passes for 406 yards and a touchdown. During the Super Bowl, Jones caught a touchdown pass and returned a kick for another score.
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Now, his offensive role is expected to increase. And the Dancing with the Stars contestant plans on applying the lessons Boldin taught him.
“We learned a lot of routes from him, how he thinks, what he sees,” Jones said. “He passed that on to us, and he did what he had to do. It's a business, man. These things are going to happen.
“I wish Q the best. He's always a Raven with me. We got something that you can never take from us, so I wish him the best.”
Several members of the Ravens gathered on Monday night to watch the 75-minute film featuring game action and interviews from their championship season capped by a 34-31 win over the 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Many of the highlights were provided by Boldin, who's now leaving the roster three years after he was traded to the Ravens from the Arizona Cardinals.
Boldin caught a 13-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter of the Super Bowl to open the scoring, also hauling in a pivotal 15-yard catch in the fourth quarter to convert a 3rd-and-1 situation while being guarded by cornerback Carlos Rogers.
"Do we even win the game without him?" Ravens reserve linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo wrote on his Twitter account shortly after the trade.
Not long after Super Bowl XLVII, Boldin told NBC Sports that he would rather retire than play for any other NFL team. Now, the former Florida State standout heads back to the NFC West as he'll join his third team as he enters his 11th season.
Boldin has traditionally thrived against the 49ers. In 15 career games against them, including the Super Bowl, the Pahokee, Fla., native has caught 90 passes for 1,157 yards and eight touchdowns.
“Anquan is a great role model,” Smith said. “Overall, he’s a great guy, a great mentor. He’s someone that I have a lot of respect for, look up to. I love him like a brother. It’s going to be tough to see him go over there.”