What are the chances the Lions bring back receiver Anquan Boldin?

Anquan Boldin scored eight touchdowns this past season, but his future with the Lions remains uncertain. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

As free agency slows down and attention to the NFL draft begins to rise, there are still some other questions remaining about the Detroit Lions.

One of them relates to veteran receiver Anquan Boldin and whether or not he’ll be making a return to Detroit this season. That’s something we address in the mailbag.

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Now, on to today’s question.


Thanks for the question and it’s a reasonable one considering the Lions have not really addressed the receiver position with any sort of depth and Boldin has now said he plans on playing season No. 15 in the NFL.

He had a good year for the Lions last season with 584 yards and a team-best eight touchdowns. He showed up in pristine shape, worked with the first unit right away and made a difference on the field as a red zone threat and a reliable third-down chain mover for quarterback Matthew Stafford. He’s a consistent player who likely is only going to return to the NFL if he believes he can still contribute in a meaningful way, so unlike other players, the age factor doesn’t concern me as far as his expected production.

That said, he’ll turn 37 next season, and for the Lions it’s a question of building some youthful depth or giving those snaps to a player like Boldin. If Boldin says he wants to come back to Detroit and the Lions believe they can pay him, I believe it will happen because of how the people within the franchise feel about him. Personally? I don’t know if I would go back to Boldin again.

At some point, Detroit needs to find its slot receiver of the future, and considering the Lions have TJ Jones and Jace Billingsley on the roster, I would give the two of them every opportunity to win the No. 3 receiving job. That, to me, doesn’t happen if Boldin is on the roster.

Now, there is a way Detroit can give both of them a chance and still bring in Boldin. The likelihood is that Boldin won’t sign with any team – particularly if it is one he’s already familiar with – until just before training camp. He believes in his workout regimen. He’s proven himself over and over in the league, so spring workouts aren’t as important for him. So, yes, it’s without pads, but if Jones or Billingsley or a to-be-determined player really takes strides in the spring, maybe you consider moving on from Boldin.

The other question is whether or not Boldin wants to return to Detroit. As someone who is also in his middle 30s – albeit without a family – I couldn’t imagine being separated from my family by a thousand miles for half of the year. That’s just a hard thing to do, especially when you have children who are getting older.

Boldin lives in Florida in the offseason so that’s a tough commute even on a player’s off day compared to, say, Atlanta, New Orleans or one of the teams in Florida, where he could get home on the team’s off day every week and possibly even for 24 hours in the Friday-Saturday gap without much hassle.

That, to me, is much less doable from Detroit.

So there are a lot of factors when it comes to Boldin. Do I think he could return? Sure. Right now, though, it’s tough to say with any sort of certainty that it will happen.