The reality is, when you have 3 - 4 players who are eating up that much cap space, you have to go cheap and/or young at other positions. That's why I think the last couple of SB winners were with young QBs who haven't been paid yet. Teams like SF, Seattle, are set up well. Other teams like Cinci will have to make a decision soon to pay their guy or move on.
I'm not calling you out - I really don't know the answer.
I think Ozzie was not interested at all in extending Boldin because of his age. Time will tell if he was right or not, but he was right with Heap and Mason before, bearing in mind Heap had major health issues where as Boldin doesn't have them.
Heap is a different story, in that I don't think age played a huge part of the decision (age/injury/wear-and-tear combined is more accurate description of concerns). And the decision to let Heap walk happened a year before he went. We drafted 2 TE's in that draft before his last year, and Heap turned 30 about a month before that draft.
I do agree with your premise but I don't think age was the sole factor with Boldin. I suspect it was a combination of age and price. It is obvious Boldin still values himself highly (perhaps rightfully so), as he seemed a bit miffed about being asked to take a $2M paycut. So any extension that had a chance of being accepted by Boldin would likely have had to have been in the $5M/yr range (for 2 years). Since we seemed to have valued him at $4M right now (based on the paycut we asked), and he wasn't going to get any younger, I doubt any mutually-acceptable extension terms were possible.
More concern would be the offense regressing with the loss of Boldin.
I think we traded him to free space to try to sign Ellerbe, and when that wasn't possible (at a reasonable price) the fallback was those defensive guys. Boldin was already traded at that point.
But I agree that it is all cap dollars. And after the fact, disregarding the order in which the decisions were made, one can maybe swap around some of the space and come up with a "better" team. The problem is that you don't have all the (future) information as you are making the decisions.
Unlike some people, I think had the Ravens known Ellerbe would be completely and utterly priced out of their range, they may have kept Boldin. Obviously that is pure speculation, but I feel that the claim/reasoning that some people are making that we flat didn't want him at all is belied by the attempt to keep him at a $5.5M cap hit vs $7.5M (asked for $2M paycut). You don't do that if you think he is too old, slow, and a bum. You just trade him without any attempt to keep him.
Heard the Boldin story as no extension offered to him, so this was pay cut or be traded situation.
As far as the thread topic, we are really early in the process, but on paper we are shaping up to be younger and faster. I can't say better as that would mean another Superbowl win in my eyes.
With the new faces on defense and the installation of a brand new offense, there maybe a gelling phase on both sides of the ball. On defense, we've added new players to all three levels and that takes time if those players end up being starters. The plus side is that this isn't a new scheme entirely, so there are players already familiar with what Pees does.
On offense, there is new terminology and designs coming from Caldwell. Instead of onboarding new players in a familiar scheme (like the defense), everybody is new to it. So I think that the coaches will play a major role in this team's success or lack of early on.
So on paper we look good, but there is a lot to accomplish from now until season opener.
I think some members on this board are drastically under valuing the additions of Michael Huff and Chris Canty. Time will tell if they will work out here, but I will say this.
Ngata at NT, and Canty at DE is a HUGE upgrade over having Kemo/Cody starting at NT. The addition of Spears was far from a flashy move, but adding decent depth players to a rotation on the Dline upgrades the overall unit. Of course the addition of Dumervil adds to the strength of the Dline. So overall, ON PAPER, the Dline has been massively upgraded no matter what anyone says, I'm not sure how you can argue with that. The Dline was probably our biggest weakness last season.
Now onto a more touchy subject. Ed Reed is not the player he used to be, and advanced metrics/film clearly shows that Huff is just at this point a better overall player than Ed Reed, so even though I may get some abuse for this, the FS position was upgraded.
What was downgraded was ILB and SS. Pollard was a good player, despite being a liability in coverage. Lets wait and see what the Ravens do in the draft to replace Pollard, unless Thompson or Ihedigbo end up starting and surprise us by being good players. ILB is a question mark, Ellerbe is a big loss even if he did get overpaid. We have the potential upside of McClain playing well here, but I think we'll bring in some guys through the draft. Even if Ellerbe was great in limited playing time last season, the overall performance of the ILB corps was below average.