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.
Baltimore did sign free agent defensive end Chris Canty, who spent the previous four seasons with the New York Giants.
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 moved on to the Dolphins.
“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.
Wallace will give Miami the speedy receiver it has sought after getting just three touchdown catches from its wideouts last season. The Dolphins also re-signed free safety Chris Clemons to a one-year deal.
Denver ensured that Peyton Manning will be the Broncos’ quarterback through at least 2014.
The four-time MVP’s contract called for a guaranteed salary of $20 million in 2013 and 2014 if he was on the Denver roster Tuesday. The final two years of his contract are worth $19 million each, but are not guaranteed.
Coming off multiple neck operations, Manning threw for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns last season and was the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He turns 37 on March 24.