Many wondered what the Lions would get from Anquan Boldin in 2016 when they signed the former 49er, but the veteran provided an important role in Detroit’s offense. The 36-year-old notched 67 receptions for 584 yards, serving primarily as a possession receiver for Matthew Stafford. With 8 receiving touchdowns, he was a huge asset in the red zone. The Lions should move on from Boldin, but they have to bring in a replacement. So begins the task of replacing Anquan Boldin’s role in 2017.
The wide receiver market has dried up in free agency, leaving little options. Age has taken a toll on Vincent Jackson, but the 34-year-old wideout presents a big body (6’5″, 230 lbs) in the passing game. He’s only a couple of years removed from a 1,000 yard season in Tampa Bay, and with 57 career touchdowns, he can still contribute in the red zone.
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Another aging star, Stevie Johnson was once considered a No. 1 receiver during his time with Buffalo. Those days have past, but Johnson can still contribute, when healthy. San Diego released Johnson earlier this month, despite adequate production (497 yards and 3 touchdowns). Like Boldin, both Jackson and Johnson offer experience to a shallow group. And neither would break the bank.
Remaining free agents on the market are uninspiring, to say the least. Forever doomed on tragic offenses, Brian Quick’s potential was wasted by the Rams. Nevertheless, he posted a career year in 2016 (564 yards and 3 touchdowns). Michael Floyd, Quinton Patton, Marquess Wilson, and Rod Streater each present intriguing options.
Ultimately, the Lions need to find their next Calvin Johnson. However, picking at 21st overall presumably places them outside of an elite wideout in the draft. Zay Jones would be an excellent pickup in the second or third rounds. The 6’2″ stud from East Carolina set the NCAA record for career receptions with 399 and probably translates to a possession receiver at the next level.
Either through free agency or the draft, the Lions have to add another receiver. Boldin finished second on the team in receptions, and fourth in yards. Most importantly, the veteran brought dependability and leadership to the offense. How will Detroit replicate that?