As Anquan Boldin marches on in the playoffs with the 49ers, the Ravens front office and the team's fan base can only lament the one that clearly got away.
Each game that Boldin plays from here on out, each catch he makes, each time he outmuscles a defensive back for a key grab, will serve as another painful reminder of one of the worst transactions in Ravens history.
Boldin had three catches for 38 yards in the 49ers' 23-20 win at frozen Lambeau Field on Sunday. Now Boldin and the 49ers advance to face Carolina in the Divisional Round next weekend.
To be clear: Boldin's presence with the Ravens this year wouldn't have necessarily translated into another Super Bowl run. The Ravens still would have had to run the ball, and the offensive line still would have had to block people. Tight end Dennis Pitta still would have missed most of the season.
There's no telling what kind of numbers Boldin would have put up with the Ravens this season, but with 85 catches for 1,179 yards this regular season -- totals that were higher than any of his three seasons with the Ravens -- Boldin proved that at age 33, he was still worth his $6 million contract.
Nine months ago, the Ravens didn't think so, which is why they traded Boldin to the 49ers for a sixth-round draft pick. The cap-tight Ravens asked Boldin to take a pay cut, and when he refused, they dealt him, which freed up cap space but left a gaping hole in the offense.
The Ravens stressed that the money saved on Boldin was used to shore up the defense, with Chris Canty and Elvis Dumervil among the key additions. But the offense clearly suffered.
“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,’ " coach John Harbaugh said last week. "It’s human nature [that] you feel that way about it. And yet, there were other guys that we added."
The Ravens have a long history of making tough calls at the right time, jettisoning popular but aging players past their prime (see Heap, Todd). But this time, they badly miscalculated. And they will be reminded of that as long as the 49ers keep playing.