Anquan Boldin’s Bills legacy will fall somewhere between Dri Archer and Percy Harvin.
At least, he did show up.
Boldin has left the Bills Sunday night and informed them he will retire.
ESPN’s Jim Trotter tweeted a short statement from Boldin expressing the NFL vet’s desire to pursue a more worthwhile goal than football.
“Football has afforded me a platform throughout my career to have a greater impact on my humanitarian work. At this time, I feel drawn to make the larger fight for human rights a priority.” Boldin added, “My life’s purpose is bigger than football.”
Boldin signed 13 days ago for a one year contract that would have netted him between $2.75 and $4 million dollars.
The Bills also released a statement Sunday night from GM Brandon Beane:
“We respect Anquan’s decision to retire from the NFL. We appreciate the time he gave us over the past two weeks. He is one of the best receivers to play the game and we wish him and his family all the best moving forward.”
I said when Boldin arrived he wasn’t a season changer and his departure isn’t a season changer, either.
On the field, this actually might work out better for the Bills in the long term.
McDermott seemed ready to make the 36 year old their top slot receiver, despite Zay Jones and Jordan Matthews also being better fits in the slot than outside. Now, one or both (hopefully, Jones) will get more snaps inside.
Boldin’s departure leaves the Bills in the same spot they were with receiver two weeks ago: woefully thin after one young veteran and a rookie. However, the veteran now is Matthews instead of Sammy Watkins. Definite downgrade.
It also could affect the Bills in next year’s draft. With Boldin on board, it was thought the Bills could release Andre Holmes in an effort to earn a third round compensation pick for losing Stephon Gilmore for New England.
The bottom two-thirds of the Bills wide receiver depth chart has not impressed in camp, save for Rod Streater and he suffered what seemed to be a serious injury Thursday night. When asked about a possibility for Streater to have surgery, Sean McDermott said Sunday, “we’re weighing our options.”
Without Streater or Boldin, Holmes may be necessary if the Bills want to field a competitive team. It’s a goal that may be losing steam by the minute.
Boldin’s departure makes you wonder what, exactly, the Bills plan is for 2017. There’s nothing but respect for Boldin if he wants to make human rights causes the priority over football, but it’s hard to convince that this decision has zero to do with the Bills direction.
Especially when Boldin, in fact, said the reason he joined the Bills was… wait for it… “Just liked the direction that everything was headed in.”
When did that direction change for Boldin?
It’s likely not about one bad preseason game. Boldin is too much a seasoned vet to be swayed by that. Any Bills-related part of this decision is about the last two weeks as a whole instead of two bad quarters Thursday night.
Maybe we go back to his first press conference August 8th to get a clue on that. His answer to why he thought the Bills were close to being a contender.
“It’s not what you see on the field or in the game, I think it’s more the stuff that happens in the locker room or when you’re not on the field. When cameras aren’t around. When coaches even aren’t around. It’s the way that guys communicate, the kind of camaraderie that guys have amongst each other, the way that guys push each other.”
Was the communication not what Boldin expected when he arrived? Did the camaraderie change after Watkins and Darby were traded? Is something making the guys push each other less?
McDermott and Beane have preached long term winning via the draft since they arrived in Buffalo. The short term plan has been much less clear. Kyle Williams remained, but Gilmore and Zach Brown were let go. Tyrod Taylor stays (granted, on a pay cut), but Watkins and Darby are traded.
It may not be a “damn the torpedoes” tank job, but the Bills certainly have done more during camp to improve the 2018 draft than the 2017 season. There’s much to say in defense about that path, but obviously, Beane and McDermott won’t have say much about it even if that’s their choice.
Bills fans may be frustrated, but they’re not stupid. They see a rebuild when it happens. Even when they know it’s necessary, it’s still not fun. That goes for players, too.
Boldin leaving is not a season changer for the Bills, but it might be an indication that this season is beyond hope to change.
More importantly, it indicates the Bills locker room probably sees it, too.