Should the Cardinals trade Anquan Boldin?

If beat writer Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic is right when he says that the Cardinals will try to shop receiver Anquan Boldin this offseason, then the team would be making a wise decision.

Boldin is a quality playmaker with excellent size, good speed and solid hands. But talent isn’t something the Cardinals are desperate for at the wideout position. They have plenty of youth and depth at receiver with Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet, which makes Boldin expendable.

Boldin will be 30 in early October and is set to make $3 million in his final year. Mind you, that’s not a ton of money to pay a receiver of his caliber, but if he reaches free agency after the 2010 season then Arizona will get nothing for him in return. If they trade him now, they might be able to get a third round pick and another player, which was what teams were offering last offseason.

A trade makes even more sense if Kurt Warner retires this offseason. When Matt Leinart takes over under center, the Cardinals will switch from an offense that attacks opponents through the air to one that tries to beat teams on the ground. The focus will come off the quarterback and receivers and onto young running back Beanie Wells.

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Do the Cardinals even need Boldin?

Listen, how about you sit this one out, Q?

According to Adam Schefter via his Twitter page, the Cardinals don’t expect wideout Anquan Boldin (ankle/knee) to play against the Saints on Saturday.

As crazy as it sounds, Arizona might be better off.

The mere thought that the Cardinals are better without Boldin in the lineup sounds ridiculous. He’s an underrated playmaker that makes teams pay for double-teaming Larry Fitzgerald. He has the size and speed to win one-on-one matchups with a defender of any size and he’s a load to bring down in open space. Of course the Cardinals are better with him.

That said, over the last two seasons the Cards are 6-1 when Boldin didn’t play. And as the Wall Street Journal points out, they’ve averaged 33.9 points per game without him in the lineup, compared to the 24.5 PPG and 17-13 record with him. They also racked up 41 points in the one regular season game (vs. the Bears) that he missed this season and 51 points last week against the Packers, so the numbers would indicate that they’re better off without him.

But this is one of those times when numbers can be misleading. Arizona has survived without Boldin because they have an abundance of depth at the wideout position. Steve Breaston has shown the ability to be a playmaker when he starts and Early Doucet showed last week that he could be a star in the making. Fitzgerald aids both receivers by commanding double-teams, and having a quarterback in Kurt Warner that can deliver the ball in a timely manner so his wideouts can make the catch in stride and pick up yards after the catch is critical as well.

Can the Cardinals win without Boldin? Absolutely – and they’ve proven it. But are they better? That’s debatable. The numbers would suggest that they are, but teams are always better when they have their full complement of weapons, especially during the postseason.

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Fantasy Football Impact Rookies

In the realm of fantasy football, using early picks on rookies is usually a dicey proposition. It’s not often that a rookie comes into the league and is able to quickly establish fantasy relevance, though a few players do break through every season. Typically, a few running backs make an immediate impact, as that is the easiest position to transition to from college. In 2007, Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch were drafted for the sole purpose of taking over their team’s running game, and they both went on to have successful seasons. Even an undrafted rookie like Ryan Grant can have an impact if he finds the right situation. (I was lucky enough to snatch him off the waiver wire before he went on his 10-game train ride to fantasy stardom. I went on to win the title in that league despite disappointing performances from two of my keepers – Shaun Alexander and Marvin Harrison.)

Last year’s wide receiver crop was a bit thinner. Dwayne Bowe was the top rookie, finishing in the top 20 in most scoring formats. This was an upset considering all the fantasy owners that were drooling over Calvin Johnson’s intangibles before the season started. James Jones and Anthony Gonzalez flirted with fantasy relevance, but otherwise rookie wideouts didn’t make much of an impact in 2007. But every year, it seems like there’s one or two that become starter-worthy. (Who can forget Marques Colston’s 2006 campagin?)

So let’s take a look at this year’s top fantasy rookies and see who’s likely to make an impact.


1. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers (pictured)
Stewart is a power back and that’s the Panthers’ style. DeAngelo Williams has been something of a disappointment, so if Stewart runs well during the rest of the preseason, it’s not inconceivable that he could earn a starting role. However, durability is a concern with Stewart, so it is more likely that the Panthers will split carries to keep him fresh and injury-free.

2. Darren McFadden, Raiders
Due to his combination of strength and speed, some compare the #4 overall pick to Adrian Peterson. McFadden joins Justin Fargas and Michael Bush in the Raider backfield. Fargas had something of a breakout season in 2007 and Bush is running very well in camp, but McFadden will still get his touches. The team has said they’d like to use McFadden like the Saints used Reggie Bush in his rookie season. Oakland won’t want to wear him out, so this looks like a RBBC for the time being.

3. Matt Forte, Bears
The Bears drafted Forte in the second round to shore up a struggling running game. Cedric Benson was a bust, but the offensive line has been suspect for a couple of years now, so there’s no telling just how much Forte will help Chicago’s ground game. He has looked solid in the preseason, and should be a solid RB3 in most fantasy leagues.

4. Kevin Smith, Lions
Smith is one of the more promising rookies simply because the Lions don’t have any other good options at tailback. Tatum Bell and Brian Calhoun haven’t made their mark, so it’s Smith’s job to lose. He has had durability and character issues during his career, so there is some question as to whether or not he can hold up to the wear-and-tear of a 16-game season. Still, given the lack of competition, he’s an intriguing middle-round fantasy pick.

5. Chris Johnson, Titans
The diminutive speedster seems to be earning a bigger and bigger role as the preseason wears on. LenDale White will get most of the work between the tackles (and, presumably, around the goal line), but Johnson will see a lot of work in the passing game and as a change-of-pace back.

6. Ray Rice, Ravens (pictured)
With Willis McGahee coming off of knee surgery, and Rice impressing in camp, there’s a real possibility that the rookie starts at tailback in Week 1. There are rumblings that the team is none too happy with McGahee’s (lack of a) work ethic, so Rice’s value is enhanced in keeper or dynasty leagues.

7. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
The Steelers raised some eyebrows (including Willie Parker’s) when they drafted Mendenhall in the first round. For now, they see him as a complement to “Fast” Willie, but he should eventually turn into an every-down back. The writing is on the wall for Parker; it’s just a matter of time before Mendenhall takes over as the Steelers’ feature back.

8. Steve Slaton, Texans
Ahman Green is hurt. Big surprise. Chris Brown is hurt. Big surprise. Somebody has to carry the ball in Houston and Slaton is second in line after Chris Taylor. Slaton has better speed, but Taylor is a little more physical. If Green and Brown continue to miss time, we might be looking at a Taylor/Slaton RBBC in Houston.

9. Felix Jones, Cowboys
Jones is the “lightning” to Marion Barber’s “thunder,” but this isn’t a timeshare. Barber is the main back, and Jones will be used to spell him and to add some punch out of the backfield in the passing game. Barber owners should definitely target Jones as a handcuff in the late-middle rounds.

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Cardinals deny Anquan Boldin’s trade request

According to the Arizona Republic, the Cardinals have denied wide receiver Anquan Boldin’s request for a trade.

Drew Rosenhaus made the first request in the spring, although Boldin denied asking for a trade. Team officials, however, confirmed that request, and sources close to the situation said Rosenhaus recently asked them again to trade Boldin or allow Rosenhaus to shop for a deal.

The Cardinals’ stance remains unchanged, according to a team spokesman. They have no intention of trading Boldin and are hopeful of signing him to a contract extension.

Rosenhaus declined comment, but a source close to negotiations said Boldin is unhappy, does not talk to coach Ken Whisenhunt and wants out of Arizona. It’s possible Boldin could walk out of training camp, the source said, even though he is under contract for three more years and subject to fines of $15,000 a day.

Boldin said he believes Whisenhunt became too involved in negotiations.

“At this point we have no relationship, and I don’t see that changing,” Boldin told NFL Network on Monday. “It’s just gotten to a point where I think lines were crossed. If you ask me, coaches should be coaches, management should be management, and I don’t think those lines should be crossed. But when you cross those lines, you put yourself in position for things like this to happen.”

Even though he’s dealing with a hamstring injury, Boldin’s situation might open the door for rookie Early Doucet, who runs excellent routes and has good hands. Of course, Doucet would be more effective in the slot with Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald on the outsides.

It’ll be interesting to see what the conclusions will be to Boldin and Rams’ running back Steven Jackson’s contract situations. Both cases look rocky right now.

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