The Cardinals traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the Ravens Friday.
It started with 10 catches for 217 yards in Detroit as a new star was born to the Cardinals, a wide receiver with the passion and the personality to be the face of the franchise for years to come.
But the Anquan Boldin era ended in Arizona Friday after seven seasons when the three-time Pro Bowler was dealt to the Baltimore Ravens, ending nearly two years of drama between he and the team about his contract situation.
"It has never affected Anquan on the field, how he's worked, how he has played," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "I have said all along we've been a better football team when Anquan has played for us. On a lot of levels it's tough to know Anquan is not going to be out there.
"But I think it was time. This was something in the best interests of Anquan and in the best interests of us. It was important Anquan get this deal done and we recognize that. I am sad to see Anquan go … but I am also pleased to see Anquan get something he is excited about and has worked hard to get. I am just glad we don't have to face him but once every four years."
In exchange for Boldin and the Cards' fifth-round draft pick – 159th overall – the Cardinals received the Ravens' third- and fourth-round picks – 89th and 124th overall. Boldin also agreed to a three-year, $25 million extension with $10 million guaranteed on top of the one year left (at $3 million) on his current deal.
But that was a deal the Cardinals and Boldin never would have reached, not with the bad feelings Boldin – who turns 30 in October -- had ever since 2008. He came out in training camp that season insisting he'd never re-sign with the team, and while his stance softened a bit publicly, the relationship between he and the team was never the same.
"Anquan was a tremendous part of the success we have been able to achieve since we drafted him and we are grateful for his contributions to the football team.," general manager Rod Graves said. "While we regret we are at this point of moving on without Anquan, I do think the trade benefits our football team."
The Cardinals also officially lost their two high-profile free agents Friday. Linebacker Karlos Dansby signed a new five-year contract with the Dolphins worth a reported $43 million with $22 million in guarantees, while safety Antrel Rolle got the biggest contract ever for a safety -- $37 million over five years, with $15 million guaranteed -- from the New York Giants,
Boldin wasn't available for comment, but in a footnote that is probably apropos to the entire saga, he is still scheduled to come to the Cards' complex one more time Saturday to participate in Kurt Warner's annual charity flag football tournament even though he has been traded.
His new quarterback, Joe Flacco, will also be at Warner's event.
The trade came together quickly. Graves said several teams had expressed an interest in Boldin since the Scouting combine and the Cardinals gave agent Tom Condon permission to speak to teams about the parameters of a contract extension – one that was necessary to get a trade finalized.
The Ravens were further ahead on the contract talks, Graves said. They also prepared the best package of draft picks.
"It escalated a bit quicker than we thought it would," Whisenhunt said. "I don't think the first day of free agency was something we thought it would happen. I think we thought it would be a process and increase toward the draft. Obviously it's good for both parties in terms of planning."
The Cards' new fourth-round pick and the Ravens' new fifth-round pick will be pushed lower in the draft after compensatory draft picks are announced at the owners' meetings later this month.
The dealing of Boldin, the news Dansby went to Miami, along with the retirement of quarterback Kurt Warner and the possible free-agent departure of safety Antrel Rolle, has left uncertainty with the Cards' fan base.
"Any team is going to have issues to face in the offseason," Whisenhunt said. "Part of being a good team that is consistently winning is you have to face those. We have done that, we had issues last year. There is no question we will have things to answer this year. But today is about Anquan and what he has done. This is something both parties are happy with."
FOOTE TO VISIT
The Arizona Republic reported the Cards are scheduled to bring in free-agent linebacker Larry Foote for a visit next week.
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