NFL Hot Stove: Ravens offer little boost to Boldin, Cards changes

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NFL free agency continues, and while it might be light on stars, it's heavy on consequences. So pull up a chair while you recover from your St. Patrick's Day hangover by skipping work and watching Kansas nuke Lehigh (and other regional action), and let's take a look at some of the bigger moves.

The trade of Anquan Boldin was all set to be one of the headlines of the offseason. A high-profile player pushes for years to break free from Arizona, and when he finally gets his wish ... well, he lands with a thud. The media glossed over the Boldin trade in favor of the Julius Peppers saga, and Derrick Mason re-upping with the Ravens got almost as much press. Not sure why. Boldin isn't over the hill, although his injuries seem to be piling up. The numbers say Boldin doesn't bring much more to Baltimore than Mason has over the past several years. In looking at the past three years, Mason was the better receiver, averaging four catches, 79 receiving yards, and nearly a yard per catch more than Boldin in a balanced offense where he was the only outlet. The only area where Boldin was better was in TDs.

Yes, Boldin had to compete with Larry Fitzgerald for catches, and Mason was the undisputed top dog in Baltimore. But Arizona threw the ball 10 percent more than Baltimore did in 2009. Boldin had more opportunities. Now Boldin goes from a pass-crazy offense in Arizona to a more equalized Baltimore attack. Also, Joe Flacco ain't exactly Kurt Warner. Throw in the fact that Mason will be back, and nothing points to Boldin having a breakout season. The Ravens offense will continue to run through Ray Rice, and Boldin will share the load with another possession receiver in Mason, who has Flacco's trust. Barring injury (and you can't with Boldin), we could be looking at a drop in his numbers, particularly the TDs.

With Boldin gone from Arizona, the starting job opposite Fitzgerald falls to Steve Breaston. So naturally, he should project right into Boldin's numbers, right? Not likely. Even if Kurt Warner hadn't retired, Breaston isn't talented enough to fill Boldin's shoes. Breaston's one "starter level" season was in 2008, when he caught 77 balls for 1,006 yards. He fell back down to earth in 2009, with 55 catches for 712 yards. Also, he doesn't have a nose for the end zone. In three seasons, he has six TDs. Those 2009 numbers don't figure to change much. Matt Leinart is no Warner, and the Cardinals will likely rely on the rushing game quite a bit more. Additionally, Early Doucet finally appeared to come around toward the end of the season and could be nipping at Breaston's heels for playing time. He's certainly the more physical of the two players. It's a different Cardinals team now. Heck, it's pretty close to a different sport with Leinart under center. Think about Breaston the same way you have in the past -- as a WR3 with upside -- and you won't be disappointed.

Are the Bengals just trying to destroy themselves? I mean, even more than they were before? Now that they've acquired the notoriously volatile Antonio Bryant, I'm counting the days until he, Chad Ochocinco and Cedric Benson re-enact the famous Mexican standoff scene from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. It'll be ego-tastic! Poor Carson Palmer is going to be pulling his hair out by the end of the season, as if he doesn't have enough problems getting his own act back together, and we won't even get into the pass protection issues in Cincinnati.

Bryant has generated a lot of hype over the last few years based on two above-average years since he entered the league in 2002. He's certainly got more left in the tank than Laveranues Coles did last year, but it's not enough to drag the Bengals back to respectability after their late-season and playoff collapse. Fantasy-wise, Bryant comes off like a respectable WR3. On the plus side, the Bengals don't throw to anyone besides their WRs. On the down-stroke, defenses know that and are all over the Cincinnati wideouts. It'll be a minor miracle if Bryant can put together an 850-yard, four-TD season. That's not terrible, but don't rely on him as anything more than a third wideout you're constantly looking to replace.

Last week, we looked at Thomas Jones in comparison to his new Kansas City backfield mate, Jamaal Charles. The verdict was that they make a prime combo. Now, Jones has a replacement in New York. Former NFL superstar LaDainian Tomlinson swallowed his pride and was signed by the Jets to hold Shonn Greene's water bottle. I've got all the love in the world for the player that Tomlinson used to be, but these days, Greene -- and even the recovering Leon Washington -- represent better options for New York. Tomlinson is coming off a season where he averaged 3.3 yards per carry, and his 12 touchdowns were more the result of Norv Turner throwing him a bone than anything else. Nine of LT's TDs came from inside the five-yard line. With the Jets' outstanding offensive line returning intact, Greene's breakout performance in the playoffs will carry over into the 2010 season. On a team that averaged 4.5 rushing yards per attempt, Greene projects to a borderline RB1. He won't be threatened at all by Tomlinson, who will be too busy fighting with Washington or some rookie draftee for Greene's scraps.