The greatest No. 2 wide receiver in Arizona Cardinals history

(Photo by Kevin Casey/NFLPhotoLibrary) Anquan Boldin
(Photo by Kevin Casey/NFLPhotoLibrary) Anquan Boldin /

Sharing the field with a future Hall of Famer did nothing to prevent Anquan Boldin from making his mark with the Arizona Cardinals.

Living in the shadow of the greatest wide receiver in Arizona Cardinals history could not have been easy for Anquan Boldin.

The Cards’ second-round draft pick in 2003 entered the NFL with a bang, hauling in 101 passes for 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns during his outstanding rookie season. That performance resulted in a trip to the Pro Bowl for Boldin, an incredible honor for a first-year professional.

Heading into the 2004 campaign, Boldin was firmly entrenched as Arizona’s No. 1 wideout. That designation would potentially be challenged, however, after the club had used that year’s third-overall draft choice on a pass-catcher with superstar potential.

By the conclusion of the Cardinals‘ 2004 schedule, many observers believed that Boldin had been overtaken as the team’s top receiver by 21-year-old Larry Fitzgerald. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Boldin’s year got off to a disastrous start when he injured his knee during an August practice. The Florida State University product missed the first four games of 2004, and would end up tallying 56 receptions, 623 receiving yards, and just one touchdown in 10 appearances (nine starts) for the Redbirds.

Meanwhile, the talented Fitzgerald stayed healthy for all 16 contests in 2004, putting up solid numbers as a rookie. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder registered 58 catches, 780 yards, and eight scores for the Cards. Just like that, Boldin’s recognition as the best wideout on the Arizona roster was put in jeopardy.

Despite playing second-fiddle to Fitzgerald, the rugged Boldin would rack up some impressive statistics for the Cardinals over the next five seasons. From 2005 to 2009, the Florida native caught 429 passes for 5,520 yards, and 35 touchdowns in the 69 matchups he appeared in for “Big Red”.

Three-time Pro Bowler began to sour on the Arizona Cardinals in 2008

Boldin’s relationship with the Cards began to deteriorate in 2008. The front office rewarded Fitzgerald with a four-year, $40 million contract, and Boldin obviously took notice of those figures. It’s quite possible that the veteran wanted a similar deal for himself, but former general manager Rod Graves would be reluctant to give it to him.

At the time, Boldin had three years remaining on the four-year, $22.67 million extension he signed back in 2005. It was being reported that Arizona’s management was willing to negotiate with Drew Rosenhaus, the unhappy player’s agent. Whether Boldin was actually presented with a new offer or not from Graves was never made clear.

Ultimately, the issues between Boldin and the Cardinals could not be resolved. In 2010, the 29-year-old was traded to the Baltimore Ravens for selections in the third and fourth rounds of the following month’s draft. The Ravens also received a fifth-round pick from the Cards in the agreement.

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Basically, Arizona cut ties with the fourth-most prolific wide receiver in team history for a pair of draft choices. The franchise has pulled off many terrific trades over the years, but the deal that sent Boldin away was certainly not one of them.