1. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome did an interesting thing Monday when he introduced receiver Anquan Boldin. He admitted that, back in 2003, the Ravens brass talked a lot about drafting Boldin.

Even though Boldin had played quarterback for half his career at Florida State, and suffered multiple knee injuries in the process, it was impossible to ignore his production. In 23 games, he caught 118 passes for 1,790 yards and 23 touchdowns. But ultimately, as the Ravens were drawing up their draft plans, they felt like they couldn't take a chance on a guy with Boldin's "measurables." Newsome didn't get specific as to what "measurable standards" Boldin didn't meet, but he didn't have to. That year at the NFL Combine, Boldin torpedoed his draft stock by running the 40-yard dash in 4.71 seconds.


We all know how things played out from there. The Ravens traded away their second-round pick -- No. 41 -- to New England along with a first-round pick in 2004 to grab Kyle Boller. (They had already snagged Terrell Suggs with the 10th pick.) Arizona grabbed Boldin with the 54th pick in the draft that year, and as a rookie, he caught 101 passes and was the Offensive Rookie of the Year in the NFL. In some respects, that decision has haunted Newsome ever since.

"I think I made a mistake in that draft worrying more about measurables [instead of] worrying about the football player," Newsome said. "And what Anquan is is a football player."

It's a nice reminder that a stopwatch has never, in the history of the NFL, scored a touchdown. And it's something to keep in mind this April as the draft gets closer. As fans, we like looking at 40 times almost as much as NFL scouts and executives because they're a tangible way of attempting to understand how some players are simply better than others. But in recent years, 40 times have become somewhat deceptive, especially for certain guys. Most players these days spend months training to run the 40 after they declare for the draft, and they do so in track shoes and shorts, working on their start, their stride, and their posture. But there are huge difference between the speed of a player running in shorts while wearing track shoes and the speed of a player wearing cleats, pads and a helmet as he comes out of his break with the ball in the air.

Straight-line speed certainly matters. But only when you compare it with actual production on the field. Some players can make up for a lack of straight-line speed with great body control and balance. Not every player who runs a slow 40 time has football speed, but certainly some do. Boldin is no Jerry Rice, but remember, he ran a 4.65 coming out of college. What's laughable is that people still bring up Boldin's 40 time -- from six years ago! -- as evidence that he's not a true No. 1 receiver because he's not a break-away threat. He caught 101 passes as a rookie when Larry Fitzgerald was still at Pittsburgh. Know who his quarterbacks were? Jeff Blake and Josh McCown.

"Leading up to the draft, it motivated me, I can't lie," Boldin said on WBAL radio, shortly after his news conference. "You had guys like Mel Kiper saying I would only be a No. 3 receiver in the NFL. These guys don't know anything about football, and yet they're considered a draft expert."

Only so much of the NFL game is vertical. I'll take a guy who can get away from his defender and catch a 15-yard "deep in" consistently (and turn it into a 25-yard gain) over a guy who might catch one deep ball every other game any day.

Because Newsome doesn't talk to the press that often, it's easy to get the impression that he's stubborn and doesn't like to admit his mistakes. But that wasn't the case Monday. He missed on Boldin, and didn't want to miss on him again.

"I make mistakes all the time," Newsome said. "I just didn't want to make the same mistake twice. In this situation, I got blinded a little bit. I didn't appreciate the football player as much as I should have. It took me seven years, but I finally got it right."

2. Boldin sort of chuckled when asked about his infamous "sideline shouting match" with former Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley, an incident a lot of media and fans used to brand him with the label of diva. And I'm glad he laughed about it because anyone using an incident like that to shape your opinion about a football player probably doesn't understand football, especially at the professional level.

"I don't know if people know it or not, but that happens all the time in the NFL," Boldin said. "It just so happens it got caught on film, and people took it and ran with it. Me and Todd still have a good relationship. I respect him, he respects the way that I play the game, and that will never change."

Football, more than any professional sport, is a game driven by emotion. And when you put hyper-competitive people together in a stressful environment, they're going to occasionally scream at one another. Especially at the NFL level, where there isn't an imbalance of power. High school kids and college kids can't -- and except in rare occasions, shouldn't -- bark at their coaches because it implies a significant amount of disrespect. At that level, it's still about teaching and mentoring, at least to a degree. But NFL players don't always have to be subservient to coaches, and it's healthy to have it out (as long as it's forgotten after the game) because in many cases, the player has a better idea of what's really going on.

We always make a big deal about it whenever it's caught on film -- for example, the speculation and fuss that resulted when Joe Flacco was shown looking irritated and animated during the Ravens-Colts playoff game -- because it's a window into a world we rarely get to see. But a lot of the time, the best thing that can happen on a football field is a shouting match, a shove-fest, or an airing of grievances. Boldin may not be a picture of humility, but you need a little ego to play wide receiver in the NFL. This is a guy who missed only two games after essentially fracturing his face because he wanted to get back for a playoff run. Anyone who questions his commitment to team because he once yelled at Todd Haley (a hot-head in his own right) is missing the forest for the trees. Boldin works hard, he blocks, he's tougher than gas station beef jerky, and he produces. He wanted to be paid market value, and now he has a contract that pays him appropriately.

"I just feel like I add a piece to this offense." Boldin said. "I know one thing I was really looking at when I was looking for a team is to go somewhere I had an opportunity to win a championship. I feel like I have that here. A place that plays defense, runs the ball, and has a great young quarterback."

If that's a diva, then the Ravens should find 10 more like him.


3. If nothing else, the trade for Boldin should relieve a psychological burden for the Ravens and their fans.


It's impossible to quantify how many hours of talk radio have been exhausted, and how much ink has been spilled, over the debate of: When are the Ravens were going to get a No. 1 wide receiver? Even if Boldin isn't Larry Fitzgerald, he's worth his weight in draft picks just from a confidence standpoint alone.

Joe Flacco doesn't have to graciously pretend he has adequate playmakers when everyone knows he doesn't, and Cam Cameron doesn't have to draw up a gameplan that attempts to move the ball with a combination of smoke, mirrors, Ray Rice and a 36-year-old wide receiver who physically and mentally showed in 2009 that he can't cheat time for much longer. Boldin's quarterbacking skills might even come into play, if you believe Harbaugh, who said Cameron was already drooling over the possibilities of ways to use the multi-talented receiver.

It's even a burden lifted for the fan base, who will have to find other ways to pass the time when stuck in traffic on the Beltway, since there should be less incentive to sit on hold for 20 minutes while waiting to vent on air about how the Ravens need to suck it up and add locker-room cancers like Brandon Marshall or Terrell Owens.

"I've been hearing that Baltimore has been waiting on a No. 1 receiver and a playmaker on the outside," Boldin said. "But as far as expectations, I don't think anyone sets their expectations as high as I do. I'm looking forward to it."

4. On the flip side, this trade ramps up the pressure a bit on Flacco and Cameron, mostly because there are almost no excuses at this point. But that's also a good thing, because we'll get to find out a lot about both the franchise quarterback and the offensive coordinator.

Can Flacco make throws in the middle of the field? Will Cameron find a better balance between running and passing? Will the Ravens be able to exploit it when defenses try to pressure Flacco? Even if Boldin doesn't catch 100 passes -- and just to be clear, he won't, nor does it seem like he expects to -- the Ravens offense should scare a lot of teams. When is the last time you could say that? If the Ravens add a young tight end to the mix through the draft in the second or third round, this team has the potential to confuse defenses and force them to make adjustments to what the Ravens are doing. That's something Baltimore fans haven't consistently seen in awhile.

If, a year from now, we still don't know the answers to some of those questions, then we have to start asking questions about the long-term potential of both Flacco and Cameron. But at least now, the team can realistically evaluate Flacco's potential and project what kind of quarterback he'll be over the next decade. Maybe he's the kind of quarterback who will need to be surrounded by more than Boldin and Ray Rice and Michael Oher to win a Super Bowl. And maybe he'll just need a few more tweaks. Think of it this way: It's a lot like putting together a puzzle. Boldin is one of the corner pieces. So are Rice and Oher. The puzzle isn't complete, but you can begin to see now how the pieces fit together.

5. Unless you're a skeptic, it's easy to get carried away with enthusiasm at a new signing. I'm typically a skeptic. But let's go ahead and get carried away for a second.

Is it possible we haven't seen Boldin's best football yet?

Sure, Boldin certainly was helped by playing alongside Larry Fitzgerald and by catching passes thrown by Kurt Warner. But he also played for a team that never had a legitimate running game and in a conference that was pretty pass happy. Teams knew the Cardinals wanted to throw the ball, and he still caught a ton of passes. He's the fifth fastest NFL player to rack up 7,000 receiving yards.

"The way they run the ball here is unbelievable," Boldin said. "They're just the opposite here of what we were in Arizona. These guys here see eight-, nine-man fronts. We saw six, seven, eight guys in the secondary. Hopefully when guys try to stack the box, that's when I'll come into play."