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Ravens need to say no to Anquan Boldin return

With the loss of Dennis Pitta it might seem logical for the Ravens to bring Anquan Boldin back as the over-the-middle possession receiver, but the offense should avoid having that sort of high-volume safety net in their offense.

It truly is heart-breaking that this might be the way Dennis Pitta’s career is ending. Nobody thought he was going to come back after his second hip injury that cost his another year of his career, but he worked hard to come back and had a fantastic 2016 season all things considered.

Pitta was not fast or explosive and was no longer a threat to stretch the field by running own the middle, but he was as reliable of a target as ever and set career-highs with 86 receptions and 729 yards. These career-marks only came with two touchdowns and just 8.5 yards per reception, but he made catches and moved the chains.

Now, with a third hip injury in four years Pitta is expected to retire, or at the very least, be out for the entire 2017 season and possibly even longer.

By losing Pitta, Joe Flacco loses his greatest safety blanket in the passing game, a reliable target with whom Flacco had great trust and timing. Pitta was also a big-bodied and physical over-the-middle target who could catch in traffic. The Ravens don’t have anybody like that on their roster after Pitta unless a 36-year-old Ben Watson can miraculously return from his Achilles tendon injury that cost him the entire 2016 season.

Breshad Perriman might have his troubles with consistency, but his getting him the ball instead of an older and slower receiver should be a priority.

Pitta’s injury may finally lead to the Ravens pulling the trigger on bringing back veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a second stint with the team. Long before Pitta got injured, the Ravens had been linked to Boldin as a replacement for Steve Smith. Smith replaced Boldin in the team’s line of veteran receivers who provide the offense with a physical possession-type option in the passing game that goes back to when they brought in Derrick Mason in 2005.

But while signing Boldin might seem like a logical move to give the Ravens some sort of physical possession-type receiving option, the Ravens should avoid going down that road.

The Ravens did have their greatest offensive season in franchise history last year, setting yardage marks as quarterback Joe Flacco passed for a career-high 4,317 yards. But he did it by throwing a career-high 672 passes. His yards per completion mark was at a career-worst 6.42. The Ravens greatest offensive season was also one of the most lackluster and inefficient of the Flacco era. That might have been because the offense revolved around throwing to veterans like Pitta and Smith, who just were not any sort of explosive anymore and only picked up tough yards instead of providing the team with big plays.

In a way, Pitta’s injury may benefit the Ravens. By losing his safety blanket, Flacco will no longer be able to play it safe. He has one of the biggest arms in the NFL and two incredibly fast receivers in Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. Chris Moore is also a very explosive receiver, and Darren Waller has always looked like he could become a dangerous slot tight end type. All of them have their inconsistencies and concerns, but all of them can stretch a secondary. None of them are the super safe option that Flacco has far too often been willing to check down to throughout his career.

Adding Boldin back to the offense to provide a safety net option for the Ravens would be the wrong thing to do. Boldin is physical and reliable, but he should not be a top weapon for an offense. Of course, the Ravens may not bring him in and plan on him being a top threat, but that does not mean he won’t turn into that after a few weeks because Flacco does not want to take any risks by throwing down the field. It might be high-risk to keep the offense focused on the guys they have, but it will also be high-reward, and that seems better than the low-risk, virtually no reward offense the team had last year or could have with Boldin.

Boldin will turn 37-years-old in October. Last year he did catch eight touchdowns on 67 receptions, but it was for only 584 yards and a career-low 8.7 yards per catch. Boldin was like a snail out on the field for the Detroit Lions last year, providing them with no explosive ability. He may still be a sure-handed receiver who will out-hit most defensive players, but the Ravens would just be slow if they bring him in to become their high-volume possession receiver. He is not what they need to bring into their offense.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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