Trading Anquan Boldin is Haunting Ravens

The Ravens let Anquan Boldin go, knowing they had Dennis Pitta. Now they have neither for 2013. - Rob Carr

The Ravens are now without Joe Flacco's two favorite targets for the 2013 season.

It's tough to say the Ravens made a mistake by trading Anquan Boldin to the 49ers in March.

Coming off a Super Bowl victory, the Ravens felt the need to improve the defense and spend money on that side of the ball. Though they were able to win a championship, the defense was mostly average for the first time under John Harbaugh's watch.

Coming from the Bo Schembechler school of thought, an average defense won't cut it for Harbaugh. Therefore, if the Ravens were unable to lower Boldin's cap figure then they felt like they would be able to part ways. After all, the overall motive this offseason was to improve a defense that finished 17th in total defense (350.9 yards per game), 17th against the pass (228.1) and 20th against the run (122.8).

It was also the first time the Ravens' scoring defense fell out of the top five under Harbaugh as Baltimore finished the regular season at 12th with allowing an average of 21.5 points per game.

The defense needed to be addressed. There was a need to get a combination of younger, faster and stronger players, along with seasoned veterans with enough years left in the league. Ray Lewis retired, Ed Reed left for Houston and Bernard Pollard was no longer in the organization's plans. The Ravens were able to address these needs by signing Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Michael Huff, Elvis Dumervil and Daryl Smith, as well as drafting Matt Elam, Arthur Brown and Brandon Williams.

There was also one more reason the Ravens could focus their attention on the defense while letting someone of Anquan Boldin's caliber go. That reason was Dennis Pitta.

Pitta was one of Joe Flacco's favorite targets in 2012. The two are close friends and have developed great chemistry on the field. Pitta's a balanced tight end, with the ability to split out as a slot receiver or run routes out of the backfield. He can work the middle of the field and win one-on-one battles. He's not Boldin, but he was someone Baltimore could count on in filling that role.

Now that he's likely out for the season with a dislocated and fractured hip, which required surgery, the need for that reliable option is glaring. The Ravens sure could use Boldin right now, couldn't they?

Then again, that's not exactly fair to the organization. It's not like you can predict a catastrophic injury, especially one that continues to sound worse with each update. The kind of injury described could take a long time to recover from and very well be something to monitor when the Ravens open training camp in 2014.

Let's put it this way: Harbaugh normally doesn't go out of his way to reveal injury information, especially when there isn't an obligation to speak to the media. But he did on Saturday. And he did with a solemn face. He said Pitta's injury is a serious situation. With news there's a fracture on top of the dislocation, that certainly qualifies as serious.

Placing Pitta on injured reserve-designated to return would be a risky move as Baltimore wouldn't be able to use that designation on any other player for the remainder of the year. Plus, with this kind of injury, he may not be able to play in 2013 any way. There doesn't seem to be any way around sitting the fourth-year tight end, in a contract year, out for the season.

It's unfortunate for Pitta, who has done everything possible to make a name for himself in the NFL. In Pitta's case, it was a bit of a fluke. It wasn't like he took a jarring hit from a defender while catching a pass over the middle. What happened, just happened.

Now his season's likely over.

Hindsight can be cruel sometimes. With a healthy Pitta, the Ravens made all the right moves by sacrificing Boldin to bolster the defense. Without Pitta, the Ravens are missing a reliable target to take pressure off of the outside receivers.

You can't fault the Boldin move in the moment, based on what the organization did after the fact.

But the Ravens sure could use Boldin right about now.

Follow me on twitter: @JasonHButt

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