ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills made a critical move Monday that should make an immediate impact on their passing game as they signed veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin to a one-year contract that could be worth $4 million if all the incentives are met.
Boldin had visited the Bills on July 24, and both general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott said they were pleased with the meeting, and were hopeful something could be worked out. Over the weekend, discussions intensified, and Boldin made the decision to come to Buffalo to help a young receiving corps that should benefit from his experience, not to mention his talent.
"We're very excited to get Anquan on board and see what he brings from a leadership standpoint, and obviously his production speaks for itself," said Beane.
Boldin, who will turn 37, begins his 15th NFL season ranked ninth on the all-time NFL list for receptions (1,076), 14th in receiving yards (13,779) and 23rd in touchdowns (82).
Boldin represents a big upgrade at the third receiver spot, assuming he doesn't beat out rookie Zay Jones to start opposite Sammy Watkins. He seems like a perfect fit to go into the slot for the Bills, with Jones and Watkins on the outside. Right now, the third receiver position is being contested between the likes of Andre Holmes, Philly Brown, Jeremy Butler, Rod Streater and others, and there has been nothing to date in training camp that indicates that any of those players would have provided much impact for the Bills.
"I think he'll blend in pretty quick, quicker than any other receiver we'd sign off the street," said Beane. "He is here to provide depth, he'll compete to do everything. They're all competing for playing time. I've been a big Anquan fan from afar. Even if I had Jerry Rice and guys like that, getting a guy like Anquan is an addition. He's a pro's pro."
One of the reasons it took two weeks to get Boldin signed is that he was weighing heavily the decision on moving his family up from Florida. He has a wife and two sons aged 13 and 7.
"I was very confident that we were a team that he thought was a fit," said Beane. "He had a great visit a couple weeks ago, everything went great. Everybody was very confident the Bills were a good fit, but I knew he had other options out there. It was an important family decision for him, and we weren't going to talk him into something that he didn't think was a good family fit."
Beane said the discussions had been coming together over the past few days, and while there was a report that Boldin initially turned down the Bills' offer, Beane said the delay in the signing had more to do with Boldin and his wife sorting everything out related to moving up from Florida.
"Family is very important to this guy at this time in his career," said Beane. "Sean and I preach family. It was our job to help him with all the facts of how he could fit his family into Buffalo. It was a family decision for Anquan and I respect the thought process they went through to make the decision."
Boldin began his career with the Arizona Cardinals as a 2003 second-round draft pick out of Florida State. The 6-foot-1, 218-pounder played seven years with the Cardinals and played in the Super Bowl following the 2008 season that Arizona lost to the Steelers. He moved on to Baltimore in 2010 and spent three years there, helping the Ravens win the championship following the 2012 season.
At Baltimore, Boldin actually caught the first pass completion of Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor's career in 2011. It came in mop-up duty during a late-season loss to the Chargers and Taylor, then a rookie, hit Boldin for an 18-yard completion.
After three years with the 49ers, Boldin played 2016 for the Lions and caught 67 passes for 584 yards and eight touchdowns. Seven of his touchdowns came when he was lined up in the slot, the second-most from that position in the NFL last season behind only Sterling Shepard of the Giants.
"He's made a lot of hay over the middle as a possession receiver, short yardage, and red zone, but he can still win on the outside, we've seen that on film," said Beane. "The great thing about Anquan is what he brings on the field and off the field. You're talking about a (Walter Payton) Man of the Year and he's ninth all-time in receptions. Look at the history and names there, it's pretty remarkable. He's a Hall of Famer."