Ever since Calvin Johnson retired this spring, the Detroit Lions have been in need of wide receivers. The franchise knows it won’t replace him with one guy. The front office and coaching staff have said that over and over again.
The Lions are trying to form a committee to replace that sort of production, and Tuesday's news that Detroit is planning to sign Anquan Boldin is another positive step toward trying to fill Johnson’s production -- at least as long as the Lions' expectations aren't too high for a receiver in his mid-30s.
Boldin checks a lot of boxes for the Lions. He is an experienced receiver who has familiarity with Lions head coach Jim Caldwell from their time together in Baltimore. He is in the NFL's top 20 all time in receiving yards (13,195) and receptions (1,009). He has shown he can be a winner and he’ll provide a strong, stabilizing presence in the Detroit locker room that Johnson once provided.
Boldin, the NFL’s reigning Walter Payton Man of the Year, is also an extremely high-character guy.
In other words, as a person, he’s exactly what Caldwell and Lions general manager Bob Quinn have been looking for.
This comes down to production, though, and it’ll be up to the 35-year-old to show he can still produce. That the Lions desperately need help at the position can only benefit him. His 69 catches for 789 yards last season is better than what all of the Lions' current receivers other than Golden Tate and Marvin Jones did last season, so he’ll have a wide-open chance to win a job.
So as long as too much isn’t expected of him -- it would be beyond stunning to see him unseat Jones or Tate -- Boldin is a smart signing for Detroit considering the Lions have questions with every other receiver spot.
TJ Jones seems safe, but can he take the next step in his production? Corey Fuller is coming off injury and hasn’t produced. Jeremy Kerley’s production has declined in recent years, and he is likely limited to the slot. Jay Lee and Quinshad Davis are undrafted rookies.
So this is a move that makes sense for Detroit's depth as long as the Lions don’t sacrifice all of their youth at the position (read: T.J. Jones) to keep him. After all, it’s likely Boldin would be no higher than the third or fourth pass-catching target behind Marvin Jones and Tate, competing with Eric Ebron, Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, and the aforementioned other Lions receivers for reps and targets.