Without question, Boldin’s familiarity with head coach Jim Caldwell made him a desirable target. It seemed like a smart move, considering the pair had won a Super Bowl together when Caldwell served as offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens.
Article continues below ...
When news broke of the signing, Boldin was regarded as a solid addition to the Lions’ receiving corps, but the move wasn’t met with much fanfare. While the Florida State product has always been a respected player in league circles, he was 35 at the time, and conventional wisdom was that his best playing days were behind him. It stood to reason that, in a best-case scenario, he would contribute as a reliable possession receiver and a locker room leader. However, as he has so many times throughout his career, Boldin ultimately proved his doubters wrong
While the five-year, $40 million pact that the Lions had made with Marvin Jones a few months prior received most of the attention in league circles, it was the Boldin signing that often proved most impactful on the field. Some may point to the fact that the 584 receiving yards he produced in 2016 represent the lowest tally of his career, but it was his emergence as Stafford’s preferred redzone target that proved to be the story of the season.
In fact, not only did Boldin’s eight touchdown receptions lead the team by a mile (Theo Riddick was second with five), but it was the highest touchdown total he had produced since his 2008 season with the Arizona Cardinals. Additionally, the savvy veteran produced numerous clutch catches throughout the season, extending drives and playing a key role in helping Stafford complete an NFL-record eight fourth quarter comebacks.
Clearly, the now 36-year-old Boldin has plenty left in the tank, and the Lions need to keep him in the mix in 2017. With free agency set to commence on March 9, he is about to hit the open market once again, if he so chooses. The caveat here, is that Boldin is debating more than just a future with the Detroit Lions, but a future as an NFL player in any capacity. In February, news broke that the three-time Pro Bowler was considering retirement.
Lions WR Anquan Boldin said he still hasn’t decided if he’ll play in 2017, open to returning to Lions if he does
After 14 seasons as a tenacious, hard-nosed pass catcher, Boldin has certainly earned this right, and the team must respect any decision he makes. With that being said, the Lions don’t find themselves in a position to easily replace Boldin’s production in the event he retires or signs elsewhere. Top free agents like Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Terrelle Pryor are going to command big money and the Lions aren’t looking to invest an enormous amount of money in the position with the aforementioned Jones and Golden Tate still in the mix.
Furthermore, the franchise in unlikely to use a high draft pick to address the position. With needs in the secondary, and potentially along the offensive line if one or both of Riley Reiff and Larry Warford depart as free agents, a third wideout becomes a significantly lesser priority.
Without question, the most logical solution to this issue is to re-sign Boldin. The team needs to make it clear to him that he is a valued member of the organization, and a key part of the plan for 2017. The talk of retirement is sincere, but the competitor in Boldin is surely excited about the prospect of making it back to the postseason with this team.
Another one-year contract is likely the prudent course of action for all parties involved, and the franchise would be wise to offer the veteran a pay bump after his stellar 2016 season. If that’s what it takes to coax him back onto the field, then the Lions should most definitely comply. After displaying his usual determination, physicality, willingness to block, and quickly developing a strong chemistry with Stafford, he showed that he still has much to offer an NFL franchise. One more year of Anquan Boldin is just what this franchise needs.