Wolf: Boldin will be missed; Cards building
I am compelled to offer this preface: Anquan Boldin is one of my favorite football players in the NFL.
When it comes to competing in the hyper-aggressive world of alpha-males, he is without peer. There are players that play the game with such ferocity their intentions can only be translated as a deep, abiding hatred for their opponent. They appear to play the game with malice. The Quan is such a player.
Unlike many professional athletes in today's Disneyland, the Land of Athletic Make Believe, Anquan didn't summon his passion for money while playing the game, he summoned himself. The genuine Quan. It's not as if he didn't want to be paid for his prowess, he did. But he never let that desire stand between he and the bloodsport; he never chose the option of being anything but himself when the blood was on the boil and it was time to perform. I have love in my heart for him because of this.
To those that have gnawed on their mouth-guard, grinding blood and dirt into preformed plastic, and did so for a living, he is the beast that answers Mother Gridiron's call. Those who confront him between the lines swear by all that is good and righteous he is Freddy Krueger in shoulder-pads. The nightmare you don't want; the dread scenario of you, The Quan and the end zone has haunted many a player. You will lose.
But like the song taught us, all good things must come to an end and it's the same with the blood-bull-Boldin. He is entering the last year of his contract. He is going to be 30. His body is showing signs of breaking down. Steve Breaston is ready to be a true #2 receiver in the NFL. Early Doucet is an early favorite to have a breakout season as the #3 receiver. With Matt Lienart the offense is going to be a little more traditional and less WR dependant.
Above all, the Cardinals are practicing a new found philosophy, a philosophy that wins games at the highest level our species can generate. And they have been practicing this philosophy over the last 3 years. And the philosophy has worked.
The genesis of winning football is clear: Identify and keep your core players, replenish/win through the draft, and sign older, more experienced free-agents that won't break the bank.
The Steelers have been winning Super Bowls using this strategy; the Patriots may have been the first to prove the model works; the Saints have one Big Time free agent they signed four-seasons ago: Drew Brees (don't talk to me about Darren Sharper, he got paid $1.7M to play for the Saints last year). There is a certainty in all of this: teams don't win Super Bowl titles by signing multiple Big Time free agents.
These are the things we DO speak about. These are the things that made the Arizona Cardinals trade Boldin to the Baltimore Ravens for a 3rd and 4th round pick, giving up their 5th round pick in the process.
As an organization, the Cardinals are sitting at the big-boy table in the National Football League. They are making decisions based on a clear, concise plan. That plan is built upon and centered around having good to great drafts, replenishing the locker room with players such as Calais Campbell, Steve Breaston, Early Doucet, Greg Toler (watch this kid), Ben Patrick, Beanie Wells, Tim Hightower, Dominique Rodgers-Crommartie etc.
These draft picks are allowing the Cardinals to be competitive WHILE rebuilding. Players get old and the best way to replace them is the draft. Young guys come relatively cheap which allows you to spend money on your core players when it comes time to extend them. When a player gets to old to take a long-term chance on, having already signed an extension with the team that drafted him, the player is allowed to traverse the free agent market. Why? Because said player is probably in his 30's or on his way or has muscle-mileage that makes him older than his age. This is what happened to Anquan.
Even with all the reported animosity Anquan Boldin had built up inside him, he will be missed; but this is what happens when a franchise starts to care more about winning games than selling tickets. They make the tough decisions. Sometimes those tough decisions include trading or letting go a local/national icon.
Welcome to the NFL, Basinonians. This is what we've all been dreaming about for the last couple of decades, right? Building teams based on winning games, not selling tickets.
On a personal note, we of the Wu Fang Clan would like to offer our best wishes and support to the one, the only Anquan Boldin. Godspeed to The Quan.