Friday, April 24, 2009

Cardinals' Reality Check Makes Boldin Viking Target

One day before the 2009 NFL entry draft, the Arizona Cardinals are finally willing to acknowledge what every other NFL team has strongly signaled since Cardinals' receiver Anquan Boldin went Terrell Owens on his offensive coordinator in the playoffs. Rather than holding to their ridiculous demand of a first- and third-round pick for Boldin, the Cardinals now are admitting that the market for Boldin is much less.

What much less is remains to be seen, though the dramatic drop in Arizona's asking price for Boldin just one day before the draft strongly suggests that the market will reveal itself within the next twenty-four hours. Given the indication that the Cardinals want to move Boldin prior to the draft, it is likely that the current asking price, now down to a second-round pick and some other considerations, could drop even further. A third-round pick no longer seems out of the question.

In 2008, despite a serious head injury that would have kept many other players out for the season, Boldin compiled 89 receptions for 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns. The numbers placed Boldin seventh among NFL wide-receivers and twenty-fourth among all NFL players in offensive production--despite Bolding having missed four games. Prorated over a full sixteen-game schedule, Boldin's numbers are an even gaudier 119 receptions for 1,384 yards and 16 touchdowns--good for number one in the NFL at the receiver position.

While Boldin unquestionably benefited from playing with quarterback Kurt Warner and opposite Larry Fitzgerald, his numbers, tenacity, and ability to play through injury suggest his value in virtually any setting. This ability has been evident from the beginning of Boldin's career in the NFL. As a rookie in 2003, he amassed 101 receptions for 1,377 yards and 8 touchdowns. That, despite catching passes from Jeff Blake, having no notable secondary receiver, and operating in an offense anchored in the running attack by Marcel Shipp.

Sideline pouting incident aside, there could not be a better fit for the Minnesota Vikings. And with roughly $16 million remaining under this year's salary cap and much more under next year's, absorbing Boldin's contract, even with new terms, would present little challenge to the Vikings.

The question for Minnesota is what to offer for Boldin. While the Cardinals are seeking a second-round pick and considerations and it might be possible to obtain Boldin for a third and nothing else, there could, ironically, be keener competition for Boldin now that the asking price has come down for the receiver. Rather than guess the potential market and miss out on obtaining what clearly would be the team's true number one receiver, the Vikings ought to do the wise thing and trump all other bids by offering a number one pick in this year's draft for Boldin.

By offering a number one pick this year for Boldin, the Vikings would be making three good moves at once. First, they would be ridding themselves of the opportunity to be tempted to draft Percy Harvin. Second, they would be "drafting" a proven player, Boldin, in the prime of his career for a bit more than they would have had to guarantee an unproven first-round selection. And, third, they would give themselves an opportunity to select an offensive lineman who is truly a second-round talent in the second round rather than in the first round.

If the Vikings had told their fan base that they had a deal in place to land a promising offensive lineman and a guaranteed All Pro with the team's first two picks in this year's draft, the fan base would have salivated. That opportunity is now available to the team. And the ultimate irony is that that opportunity has availed itself in large part because the Vikings failed to sign a less talented wide-receiver in T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Up Next: Will They or Won't They?

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