Baltimore loses Boldin, Kruger, Ellerbe
The Baltimore Ravens are paying the price for winning a Super Bowl.
The NFL champions lost two key components of their defense, linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, as free agency began Tuesday. On Monday, they traded star receiver Anquan Boldin, a key to their title run, to San Francisco — the team the Ravens beat 34-31 to win the championship.
Kruger went north to division rival Cleveland for a five-year, $40 million deal, while Ellerbe headed south to Miami for $35 million over five years. Steelers receiver Mike Wallace joined Ellerbe in choosing the Dolphins.
The 49ers didn’t go untouched, either. After giving up a sixth-round draft pick for Boldin, they saw tight end Delanie Walker leave for Tennessee.
San Francisco also confirmed the trade of backup quarterback Alex Smith to Kansas City, a deal that was known for weeks. The 49ers will receive the Chiefs’ second-round pick, 34th overall, in this year’s draft and a conditional pick in next year’s draft.
The 32-year-old Boldin expressed surprise that he was traded.
“I thought this was the last stop of my career but regardless of the circumstances I came here to win a Championship … and in February we came home Champions,” he said on Twitter.
Ellerbe also tweeted as he took his talents to South Beach.
“Just wanna take time to THANK GOD for being in this position I’m in! Before I make da BIGGEST DECISION in my life I just wanna thank him!!!” Ellerbe said.
Kruger led the Ravens with nine sacks and added 2 1/2 in the playoffs and two in the Super Bowl. But he was too expensive for Baltimore to keep.
Teams also made cuts Tuesday. The biggest were Ryan Fitzpatrick in Buffalo and Nnamdi Asomugha in Philadelphia.
The Bills’ starting quarterback was released 1 1/2 years after getting a six-year, $59 million contract extension. Fitzpatrick struggled after signing the new deal, and the Bills went 6-10 in 2011 and in 2012.
Buffalo has not made the playoffs since 1999, the longest active streak in the NFL. For now, the Bills’ No. 1 quarterback is Tarvaris Jackson.
Philadelphia released cornerback Asomugha, who two years ago got a five-year, $60 million contract, $24 million guaranteed, when he left Oakland as a free agent. Asomugha was a flop in Philly, often victimized in single coverage.
Asomugha was scheduled to make $15 million next season, with $4 million guaranteed.
Earlier, Tony Gonzalez changed his mind and decided to return to the Falcons. The NFL’s career leader among tight ends with 1,242 receptions and 103 touchdowns said he was 95 percent certain he would retire after 2012, but the other 5 percent won out.
c Defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma, both implicated in the Saints’ bounty scandal, agreed to restructure their contracts to remain with New Orleans.
The 31-year-old Smith and 30-year-old Vilma, both veteran defensive captains, would have taken up about $23 million combined in salary cap space without the redone deals.
c Minnesota finalized the trade of receiver Percy Harvin to Seattle, released 14-year veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield and re-signed right tackle Phil Loadholt. The Seahawks are sending their first-round and seventh-round draft picks this year plus their third-round selection in 2014 for Harvin.
c Tennessee agreed to terms with Buffalo guard Andy Levitre and San Francisco tight end Delanie Walker. Levitre, one of the top offensive linemen on the market, got a six-year deal worth nearly $47 million. He will replace Steve Hutchinson, who announced his retirement earlier Tuesday. Walker will help replace Jared Cook, who the Titans declined to tag as a franchise player because he wants to be paid more like a receiver.
The Titans waived safety Jordan Babineaux and guard Mitch Petrus.
c Pittsburgh re-signed linebacker Larry Foote and wide receiver Plaxico Burress and tendered offers to four restricted free agents: receiver Emmanuel Sanders, running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, all of whom could be starters in 2013, and nose tackle Steve McLendon. Burress should provide depth with the Steelers losing Mike Wallace in free agency, but Burress struggled to get onto the field after returning to the Steelers last November.
Foote also came back to Pittsburgh last season and will stay at inside linebacker, where the other starter, James Harrison, was released this week. Foote got a three-year deal.
c Denver agreed to terms with guard Louis Vasquez, late of San Diego. According to STATS, he has allowed just 11 sacks and had one penalty during his time with the Chargers.
c Tight end Martellus Bennett agreed to a four-year contract with the Bears, leaving the Giants after one season. Defensive tackle Henry Melton signed his franchise tag tender at $8.45 million.
c Cincinnati re-signed defensive ends Robert Geathers and Wallace Gilberry. Geathers enters his 10th season with the Bengals, the longest tenure on the current roster.
c Houston cut receiver Kevin Walter, who was due to make $2 million in salary.