The Arizona Cardinals likely won’t be playing the 2009 season with Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin. He is too expensive for them to extend a long-term deal, and his trade value will never be higher.
There already have been rumors about every wideout-needy team in the league making a pitch for Boldin. He is the most attractive available player at his position. Just his age, 28, makes him stand out against Plaxico Burress (31), Chad Johnson (31) and Terrell Owens (35).
Boldin can easily match all of those receivers in athleticism and physicality. Despite his overblown disagreement with now former Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Boldin doesn’t carry the same diva characteristics of that trio. Plus, he will be eager to get out of Larry Fitzgerald’s shadow and play for a bigger payday elsewhere.
Which of the trade suitors provides the best fit for Boldin? In an unscientific 1-8 ranking system for the services of a guy named “Q,” one team stands out:
1. New York Giants. Boldin’s talents are made for a big market. He has more versatility and mettle than Burress. He has experience playing for a Super Bowl team. He has the toughness to play in those physical NFC East games. His route running and ability to pluck almost every throw would allow him to mesh quickly with Eli Manning and the Giants’ passing scheme.
The Giants are willing to make a bold move, as seen by last offseason’s trade of Jeremy Shockey. The team doesn’t have any immediate needs to maintain its status as a Super Bowl contender — expect settling on a top receiver in the wake of Burress-gate.
2. Philadelphia Eagles. Boldin would be a great complement to speedsters DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis. And we’ve already seen what Donovan McNabb can do with a receiver of Boldin’s caliber. According to general manager Tom Heckert, the team originally had no plans of going after a free-agent wideout, but trading for one such as Boldin is now a possibility. A T.O.-like deja vu would be fun for McNabb, and the Eagles have emerged as the second-most likely destination.
3. Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins need a bona fide No. 1 receiver to spark their offense. Boldin is the type of bruising receiver Bill Parcells loves. The former Pahokee, Fla., high school star also might be more likely to sign to a long-term deal with a move so close to home.
But Miami, despite its quick turnaround, still has plenty of positional needs, and Parcells prefers to build through the draft instead of making a big splash for one skilled player. As well as Boldin could click with the shorter passing of Chad Pennington, this move is highly unlikely.
4. Buffalo Bills. The Bills desperately need what Boldin can bring — an intermediate target who isn’t afraid to run routes over the middle and can turn short darts into long gains. Boldin would be an ideal complement for Lee Evans, who operates best as a deep threat. Boldin’s sure hands on shorter passes also would boost the confidence of third-year quarterback Trent Edwards, and he would work well with Buffalo’s playbook. It would be an aggressive move for a young team, and one that would pay off.
5. Kansas City Chiefs. There’s no question Boldin can thrive in a Haley-led offense. The problem is what it would take for general manager Scot Pioli to swing the deal. The rebuilding Chiefs can’t afford to ship high picks for one player, especially when they have a clear shot at Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree at the No. 3 spot. And unless the Chiefs trade for Matt Cassel first, the QB situation is a frustrating one.
6. Dallas Cowboys. Exit Owens, enter Boldin to join Roy Williams? That would make Tony Romo and coordinator Jason Garrett happy, knowing they wouldn’t need to change much in how they go about passing the ball. Such a move is unlikely, through, because after giving up a first-, third- and sixth-rounder to get Williams, there’s not much of a package Big D can offer. Also, the team is becoming more focused on re-signing its own players. Boldin is better off avoiding the Cowboys’ mess.
7. Oakland Raiders. We know how much the Raiders love super-athletic receivers, and JaMarcus Russell could really use a go-to guy to help him reach the next stage in his development. But the team needs upgrades at several positions and doesn’t have the feel of a contender, so Boldin probably wouldn’t want to be there beyond his current contract.
8. Chicago Bears. Brian Urlacher for Boldin? That’s just one of many wacky thoughts out there. The Bears wouldn’t be an attractive destination for Boldin, considering their uncertainty at quarterback and their lack of receiving threats who can take pressure off him. Although his physical style would be popular in Chicago, he likely would become frustrated by defenses game-planning to make him a non-factor.