Sensational Career Puts Anquan Boldin on Hall of Fame Bubble
Super Bowl XLVII hero Anquan Boldin has called it quits.
"At this time, I feel drawn to make the larger fight for human rights a priority. My life's purpose is bigger than football," Boldin said in a statement via ESPN.
The Ravens don't bring home the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy without the incredibly tough receiver, so Baltimore will always be grateful for Boldin's three-year stint in purple and black. Four years after trading Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers, Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti still said it was one of the toughest decisions he's ever had to make.
With a sensational 14-year career in the books, Boldin's status for the Hall of Fame is being debated.
Coming out of Florida State, Boldin was regarded as a hard-nosed player, but lacked the speed teams look for in a receiver. He turned in a slow 4.71-second 40-yard dash at the 2003 NFL Scouting Combine, and even Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said he made a "mistake" worrying too much about measurables and not enough on just evaluating the football player.
"He worked for 14 years to prove speed isn’t everything," wrote TheMMQB.com's Peter King, who gets a vote on Hall of Fame candidates. "Precise route-running is, and toughness is, and durability is."
Despite lacking prototypical NFL size and speed, Boldin finished his career ninth in NFL history with 1,076 receptions and No. 14 with 13,779 receiving yards, which are more than current Hall of Famers Art Monk, Steve Largent and Andre Reed.
What he has going against him, especially as a first-ballot candidate, is that he'll compete against a crowded group of receivers when he's eligible in 2023. By that time, Boldin will be considered along with Calvin Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson and another former Raven, Steve Smith Sr.
As such, Boldin is squarely on the Hall of Fame bubble. Below are some thoughts on his chances:
King: If he gets in, it won't be his life's achievement."Every year, the information packets would come in the middle of December, with the nominations of all 32 teams for their NFL Man of the Year. Each team could pick one. I lost count how often Anquan Boldin was in the packet. I was one of the voters for the award, and I'd read through each of the bios of guys who would donate X per sack to X charity, or who would give out turkeys to families and backpacks to children before the school year … all tremendous gestures, illustrative of the scores of fine people, generous people, selfless people, who play in the NFL. But there was something about Anquan Boldin's candidacy, over several years, that jumped off the page. In 2014, he and his wife endowed a long-term scholarship fund for needy high-school seniors with $1 million in seed money. He went to Ethiopia for Oxfam in 2012 to bring attention to a severe drought. He established an eight-week summer program for kids struggling academically in his needy community of Pahokee, Fla. He was a solid and influential voice among NFL players angry at the treatment of black citizens in some police incidents. I voted for Boldin because he was such a good player on the field and so valuable off it. He won the award in 2015. … If he ever makes it to Canton, I can assure you this: It won't be his life's crowning achievement."
Greg Rosenthal (NFL.com):The odds are against him, but that's been Boldin's whole life.
"He is unlikely to be selected on his first or second ballot, in large part because he's usually been a second option on his own team. Yet his team-first ethos is part of what makes Boldin great. … He was a huge part of deep playoff runs for three different organizations. After Joe Flacco, Boldin was the most valuable Raven during the team's title run. They simply don't win Super Bowl XLVII without him. It is somehow fitting in an underappreciated career that he was traded after his greatest triumph. … Boldin is admittedly a personal favorite. Few players have suited up with more obvious joy for the game. It doesn't hurt Boldin's case that he's one of the best people in the sport. That is an intangible, and Boldin's playoff moments add more juice to his candidacy. Let's be real: Intangibles matter to voters. … The odds are against him, but that's been the case Boldin's whole life."
Jamison Hensley (ESPN):Anquan Boldin belongs in hall of toughness, but not in Canton."Anquan Boldin walks away from football as one of the game's most fearless, physical and clutch players in NFL history. He was just never the best wide receiver in the league at any point during his admirable 14-year career. Boldin belongs in the hall of toughness, not in Canton. For most of his time in Arizona, Boldin wasn't the best receiver on the Cardinals. That was Larry Fitzgerald, who is undoubtedly a Hall of Fame player. During Boldin's stint in Baltimore, he wasn't the top pass-catcher in the division. A.J. Green and Mike Wallace put up better numbers over that span. Still, quarterbacks never hesitated to throw the ball to Boldin when the game (or Super Bowl) was on the line, even if he was covered. Defensive backs grimaced at the task of trying to bring him down to the ground. And Boldin prided himself on holding on to the ball after the most brutal hits, one of which famously required seven plates and 40 screws to put his face back together. Boldin's imprint on the game goes beyond numbers and averages. But it's those numbers that tell the story of a wide receiver who was very good yet falls short of being Hall of Fame-caliber."
@anquanboldin thanks for showing me the way both on and off the field! Looking forward to creating change in our country alongside you! pic.twitter.com/OVt9EjjcOq — Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) August 21, 2017
Mid-Preseason Report: Reasons for Concern and Optimism
With half the preseason down and two games to go, The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec put together a mid-preseason report that outlines both reasons for concern and optimism.
With the offense sustaining one key injury after another, including to franchise quarterback Joe Flacco, it's not surprising that Zrebiec named the unit as the main cause for worry. He especially points to the offensive line, where things are especially thin even with the signings of center Jeremy Zuttah and right tackle Austin Howard.
"[T]here's still a great deal of uncertainty as to who will be on their offensive front Sept. 10," Zrebiec wrote. "Nothing sinks a season faster than a porous offensive line.
"… Even with the Ravens maintaining that Flacco will be ready for the regular-season opener, he still will be a 32-year-old playing on a surgically repaired left knee and with a bad back. The thought of Flacco missing time in the regular season and [Ryan] Mallett having to come in can't be too comforting right now to the Ravens."
But there is still reason for optimism, and Zrebiec says that's primarily due to an air-tight defense. When a majority of starters have been on the field, the unit has not allowed any points and prevented opposing offenses from notching a first down on three of five drives.
"Beyond any preseason statistics, the Ravens look noticeably quicker and deeper, fulfilling a primary offseason focus of the front office," Zrebiec wrote. "Criticism about the team's failure to do more to help the offense is valid, but the organization's top decision-makers have done a nice job adding youth and talent on the defensive end. The Ravens are loaded along the defensive line and at outside linebacker, where they probably have more good players than they can afford to keep."
Zrebiec also says Justin Tucker and the undrafted rookie class are reasons to feel good.
Tucker is 6-for-6 on field-goal attempts in the two preseason games, including two from beyond 50. In Miami, Tucker lobbied to kick a 72-yarder (to no avail, but it drew plenty of smiles) and he recovered a fumble on his own kickoff.
As for the rookie class, Zrebiec says wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, defensive lineman/fullback Patrick Ricard and cornerback Jaylen Hill have "put themselves in good position to make the team." He named another five who are firmly in the mix.
"The Ravens are known for their ability to unearth and develop quality undrafted free agents. This year's class appears particularly strong. The question is not whether their 53-man roster will contain at least one undrafted rookie, which it has every year under coach John Harbaugh. It's how many rookie free agents they'll keep."
Wallace: Flacco Is Top-Secret 'Weapon X'
While the injuries continue to cause uneasiness around town, leave it to uber-confident and fun wide receiver Mike Wallace to bring levity to the situation.
Flacco has yet to participate in training camp and isn't expected to return to practice leading up to the third preseason game against the Buffalo Bills Saturday. Meanwhile, wide receiver Breshad Perriman has been missing with a hamstring injury since Aug. 1.
But, it's all part of a "top-secret" covert plan, says Wallace.
"We can't give you any glimpses of Joe. When he comes back, you all are going to see. He has gained like 30 pounds of muscle, he is running like a 4.5 [40-yard dash] now," Wallace said with a smile. "He is like Weapon X. He is under wraps right now, but when he comes back, it is going to be crazy."
And what about Perriman?
"He put on 25 pounds of muscle, and speed, he went from a 4.1 to a 4.0. He is running a 4-flat now," Wallace joked in the video below. "We have some guys injured — different lineups, different guys in and out. It is just a progression. I think we will be fine, or I know we will be fine come Week 1.* *We are missing our top weapon, which is our quarterback. Once he comes back, things will all start to fall in place, guys will feel better."
Joe Flacco's recovery is top-secret.
"He's like Weapon X." - @Wallace17_daKid
pic.twitter.com/7A1Sp50ES7 — Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 20, 2017
Ravens Have Room for Another Player on Roster
Expect the Ravens to make a move in the next day or so.
The team announced Sunday that it waived linebacker Lamar Louis and waived WR Kenny Bell from injured reserve with an injury settlement. The signing of Jeremy Zuttah takes one spot, but there is one more left vacant.
The Ravens could continue to bolster the offensive line, simply give another undrafted rookie a chance to prove himself, or something in between.