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Ravens were unable to replace Anquan Boldin in 2013

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Not having a slot presence hurt the Ravens throughout the season, coach John Harbaugh said.

After three years without 1,000 receiving yards in Baltimore, Anquan Boldin recorded 1,179 yards with the 49ers in 2013.
After three years without 1,000 receiving yards in Baltimore, Anquan Boldin recorded 1,179 yards with the 49ers in 2013.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When the Ravens traded Anquan Boldin to San Francisco last offseason, the general consensus was that Dennis Pitta would step up and fill that void.

When Pitta fractured and dislocated his hip, the Ravens' offense no longer had that option. The franchise went out and got Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark, though Stokley was injured throughout the year and Clark showed his time in the NFL is all but done.

The offense struggled as a result, and even coach John Harbaugh recognized the fact that the offense was unable to replace Boldin's production from past seasons.

"Defensively, we were able to replace [players that left], and it showed up in the way we performed on defense," Harbaugh told reporters on Monday. "We probably weren't able to do that quite the same way with Anquan, unfortunately.

"So, I don't know how to answer that question. It is what it is; it's a fact. You've got a guy who was a big part of what we were doing, but he wasn't the only guy we lost. There were a lot of guys we lost last year that were a big part of what we were doing, and that is probably going to be the case every single year. As a coach, you just can't get caught up in that. You can't look back."

Harbaugh said he understands why Ravens fans and media alike would second-guess the decision. After trading Boldin, the veteran receiver went on to catch 85 passes for 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns with the 49ers.

Boldin never recorded one 1,000-yard season in three years with the Ravens.

Harbaugh added it's hard not to notice when former players are with other teams making big plays.

But in a salary cap drive league, sometimes you have to make sacrifices. And in this instance, it was one the Ravens felt they had to make, even if it came back to haunt them in the end.

"I'm talking to the fans here — I'm watching guys that left here and watching them make plays for other teams," Harbaugh said. "Of course, I'm thinking the same thing you're thinking: ‘Man, it'd be great if he was making that play for our team.' It's human nature [that] you feel that way about it.

"And yet, there were other guys that we added. With the cap restrictions, you take the money, they go from one person to another person that we added, and those guys were making plays for us. You mentioned those guys — Elvis Dumervil being a great example, Chris Canty being another example. We spent to the cap. It's not like we didn't spend the money. You've just got to do the best you can in this salary cap era of being the strongest team you can for the money that you're allotted, and hopefully, it works out. That's really the reality of it."