More than nine months after it happened, Ravens fans are still talking, and reporters are still asking, about trading wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers.
After the Ravens fell short of the playoffs, Head Coach John Harbaugh was asked whether losing Boldin hurt over the course of the year.
"Well, if we had been able to replace Anquan [Boldin], then … Defensively, we were able to replace those guys, and it showed up in the way we performed on defense," Harbaugh said.
"We probably weren't able to do that quite the same way with Anquan, unfortunately. So, I don't know how to answer that question. It is what it is; it's a fact."
Fans know full well what Boldin did for the Ravens last postseason.
After a somewhat slow regular season (921 receiving yards, four touchdowns), he went on a torrid playoff run, and was a big reason why they took home the Lombardi trophy. He put up 22 receptions for 380 yards and four touchdowns down the stretch.
The Ravens traded Boldin to the 49ers in exchange for a sixth-round pick mostly to dump his large salary. They used it to help sign some key defensive players that made a difference, including outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil and defensive end Chris Canty.
But part of the reason why the Ravens felt comfortable parting with Boldin was because they had high hopes and were confident in several players to replace him. One of the chief people in that equation was tight end Dennis Pitta, but he missed all but four games with a hip injury.
"You better understand that injuries are going to happen, but I don't know that we necessarily had a go-to guy in the slot that was really a good answer to replace Dennis when he got hurt," Harbaugh said.
At the time, the Ravens had Deonte Thompson, Tandon Doss, David Reed and Marlon Brown. They added wide receiver Brandon Stokley and tight end Dallas Clark.
Clark (31 catches, 343 yards, three touchdowns), Doss (19 catches, 305 yards), and Thompson (10 catches, 96 yards) flashed at times, but didn't maintain consistency.
Brown (49 catches, 524 yards) broke out with a Ravens rookie record seven touchdowns, but wasn't the reliable slot option Boldin was last year. Reed was traded and Stokley (13 catches, 115 yards) was hurt for most of the year.
"Replacing Dennis Pitta was tough for us, and it probably threw us off a little bit," Harbaugh said.
Meanwhile, Boldin had a big year in San Francisco. He put up more receiving yards (1,179) and catches (85) than he ever had in three years in Baltimore, as well as seven touchdowns. Boldin capped the year with nine catches for 149 yards and a score.
Harbaugh addressed Ravens fans about the issue:
"You can't look back," he said.
"I'm watching guys that left here and watching them make plays for other teams. Of course, I'm thinking the same thing you're thinking: 'Man, it'd be great if he was making that play for our team.' It's human nature [that] you feel that way about it. And yet, there were other guys that we added. With the cap restrictions, you take the money, then go from one person to another person that we added, and those guys were making plays for us.
"We spent to the cap. It's not like we didn't spend the money. You've just got to do the best you can in this salary cap era of being the strongest team you can for the money that you're allotted, and hopefully, it works out. That's really the reality of it."