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Receivers First to Go in NFL Free Agency

On the eve of NFL free agency, trades involving top receivers Anquan Boldin and Percy Harvin grabbed the headlines.

In an odd twist yesterday, Boldin went from the Ravens to the San Francisco 49ers, the team he helped Baltimore beat 34-31 in last month’s Super Bowl.

Harvin, who expressed his discontent in Minnesota, was sent to Seattle, where he will join former Vikings teammate Sidney Rice.

San Francisco acquired the 32-year-old Boldin for a sixth-round draft pick. Boldin, a star in Baltimore’s run to the Super Bowl title last season, must pass a physical to complete the deal.

“Anquan was a great receiver for myself and for our football team,” said quarterback Joe Flacco, who signed a six-year, $120.6 million deal with the Ravens last week. “It’s sad to see a guy like that go, but at the same time, you want what’s best for him and you just wish him the best of luck.

“Anquan was a big part of this football team, a big part of this offense. He’s one of the main reasons we won the Super Bowl this year.”

Boldin had six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl victory. He had said he’d consider retirement rather than leave Baltimore. But going to the NFC champions might change his mind.

“It’s a business, man. Those things are going to happen,” Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones said. “I wish Q the best. He’s always a Raven with me, and we got something they can’t take from us.”

Added fellow Baltimore receiver Torrey Smith: “It’s not so much about football when you lose someone like that, someone you love like a brother and would do anything for you.”

The 24-year-old Harvin, Minnesota’s moody and multi-talented receiver, will join the Seahawks for a package of draft picks that includes Seattle’s first-round selection next month, No. 25 overall. He also must pass a physical.

Minnesota will also get Seattle’s seventh-round pick this year and third-round selection in 2014.

League MVP Adrian Peterson was not thrilled over the news.

“The best all-around player I ever seen or you’ll ever see! Goes to Seattle! I feel like I just got kicked in the stomach. Several times!!!” Peterson posted on Twitter.

Harvin was producing at an All-Pro level until badly spraining his left ankle last Nov. 4 in a game at Seattle. He was placed on injured reserve a month later. He led the NFL in total yards at the time of his injury.

Harvin, who also has suffered from migraines, will enter the fifth and final season of his rookie deal with a $2.9 million salary that’s well under market value — unless the Seahawks rework it.

Also yesterday:

∎ The Giants are allowing Victor Cruz to enter restricted free agency, placing a first-round tender on the wide receiver.

Team owner John Mara said the Giants will risk having Cruz agree to a contract with another club. New York has the right to match any offer. If the Giants allow him to leave, they will get a first-round draft choice as compensation.

The tender is worth $2.879 million for 2012 for Cruz, who has not made half of that in his three pro seasons.

∎ Cornerback DeAngelo Hall was cut by the Redskins, a casualty of the team’s NFL-imposed salary cap penalty. Washington is over the cap because of an $18 million sanction for the way it structured contracts during the 2010 uncapped season.

Hall had two years remaining on the six-year, $54 million deal and was due to make $7.5 million in salary in 2013.

∎ The Broncos released nine-year veteran linebacker D.J. Williams, freeing up his $6 million salary in 2013 for other needs. Williams missed nine games while serving a pair of NFL-mandated suspensions last season and was deemed expendable after Wesley Woodyard had a breakout season at weakside linebacker.

Denver also released third quarterback Caleb Hanie, who didn’t take a single snap in his one season in Denver, and finalized a three-year deal to keep backup safety David Bruton, their top special teams player.

∎ The Jets signed quarterback David Garrard to back up — and provide a challenge to — starter Mark Sanchez. Garrard has not played in the NFL since 2010. He started 76 games in nine seasons with Jacksonville and played in the 2009 Pro Bowl.

∎ The Cardinals released running back Beanie Wells after four injury-plagued seasons. A first-round pick in 2009, Wells showed flashes of the brilliance he had at Ohio State, but has only played one full season — his rookie year.

Wells eclipsed 1,000 yards and scored 10 touchdowns in 2011, but was limited to eight games last season due to turf toe.