The Ravens traded Anquan Boldin to the 49ers on Monday and, while Boldin may be nearing the end of his career, the move could have a major impact on Baltimore, San Francisco and the rest of the NFL in 2013.
Boldin is on the downswing of his career, but has remained productive even at 32-years-old. The 49ers were close to winning the Super Bowl last season and, even if he is in decline, Boldin should help them next season. Michael Crabtree developed into a No. 1 receiver for San Francisco, but the 49ers have struggled to fill the void behind him. Mario Manningham was San Francisco's second-most productive wide receiver last season, catching 42 passes for 449 yards.
Manningham, however, is coming off a major knee injury and Randy Moss -- San Francisco's third-most productive wide receiver -- isn't expected to return next season. San Francisco has former first-round pick A.J. Jenkins waiting in the wings, but the acquisition of Boldin should allow the 49ers to ease Jenkins into the fold next season rather than relying on him. Even if he spends just a season in San Francisco, Boldin makes the 49ers better.
Baltimore loses its leading receiver and a key playoff contributor -- but with salary cap constraints, the Ravens were not in position to pay Boldin $6 million next season. With Boldin unwilling to take a pay cut, the Ravens got something of value rather than releasing him for nothing. They also send him to the NFC and ensure he doesn't land with a rival like New England. San Francisco's offer of a sixth-round pick was better than others as the Vikings reportedly offered a seventh-round pick.
The trade will open up some salary cap space for Baltimore, who could in turn use it to retain key free agents like Dannell Ellerbe and Ed Reed. The Ravens could also attempt to acquire a replacement for Boldin on the free agent market, possibly finding a younger or more cost effective player, even if he doesn't come with Boldin's postseason successes.
Maybe even more importantly, the move will free up targets for wide receiver Torrey Smith. Smith took a big step forward in his second year and has all the makings of a future star. He was second to Boldin in targets last season, and with another year of development, he could ascend as a No. 1 receiver.
The impact of the move is also likely to be felt around the NFL. With Seattle's acquisition of Harvin and San Francisco's move to pick up Boldin, the leaders in the NFC West continue to separate themselves from the division and the NFL. After Monday's deals, Las Vegas oddsmakers have installed the 49ers and Seahawks as co-favorites to win Super Bowl XLVIII, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The 49ers and Seahawks may be the two best teams in the NFL right now and their budding rivalry is likely to intensify in the coming seasons.
As for the wide receiver market, the Boldin deal isn't likely to drive down the price of many players available by trade or in free agency. Boldin is older than most players on the market and with the Ravens likely to release Boldin in the coming days, Baltimore had very little leverage in trade discussions.
A similar player, like New England's Brandon Lloyd, could be impacted as the market has now been set. Monday's deal, however, is likely to have a bigger impact on the field next season than on the wide receiver market.
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