Welcome Anthony Sambrotto, former BuffaloBills.com contributor. Follow him on Twitter @asambrotto95
While Anquan Boldin’s exact role with the Bills is still to be determined, the veteran wide out will undoubtedly boost a receiving group that has myriad question marks with the first preseason game only days away. With Boldin already cemented to crack the 53-man roster, the question now becomes what his signing will mean to his new teammates.
General manager Brandon Beane met with the media shortly after the Boldin signing was announced and said that how he will be utilized within the Bills offense is ultimately going to be a decision made by the coaches and Boldin’s play on the field.
“He is going to provide depth and he’ll compete to do everything and everybody’s going to compete to start [and] for playing time,” Beane said on Monday. “Again, my job is to bring as many players as I can to help this roster. That’s up to coach [Rick] Dennison, Sean [McDermott], and receivers coach how they work him in.”
Here’s a look at Boldin’s possible ripple effects:
The run game: The run-heavy Bills definitely considered this part of Boldin’s game when they offered him a deal. Boldin is widely considered one of the best blocking receivers in the game and fills a void left by Robert Woods’s departure in free agency. The Bills rely heavily on their wide receivers and tight ends in the blocking department, and one of the game’s top run offenses might have just got even more dangerous.
Sammy Watkins: The only person on Buffalo’s roster that smiled more widely than Tyrod Taylor when Boldin’s signing was announced had to have been Watkins. Although the former first round pick has looked like his old self on the practice field this summer, the acquisition of Boldin will certainly take a great deal of pressure off of Watkins’s shoulders. Boldin and Watkins can each present opposing defenses with different looks, and it gives offensive coordinator Rick Dennison some flexibility in how he wants to use his top playmakers. Boldin has made his money in the slot and over the middle in short yardage situations over the last couple of seasons, but he can still line up on the outside. For Watkins, he has even lined up in the slot on several occasions during camp and even dating back to last season. In 2016, according to Pro Football Focus, Watkins appeared in the slot on 20.7% of his passing snaps. The Boldin signing could allow Watkins line up in the slot more frequently, creating coverage issues in the secondary.
Zay Jones: The rookie has had big expectations follow him around since the Bills took him in the second round in April, but Boldin’s signing could be especially beneficial to Jones. He should now have the ability to ease into an NFL offense, and he now has another veteran presence in the meeting rooms to help him develop and acclimate to the NFL. Without having to give up too much of his playing time, Jones can learn from one of the game’s best receivers over the past decade.
Andre Holmes: Signed to a three-year, $6.5 million contract in the off season, the Bills were eager to make Holmes a big part of their offense . However, Holmes hasn’t been able to consistently hang on to the football so far in training camp; an issue that has plagued him throughout his career has risen to the surface again. Although he is still listed as the number two receiver on the team’s unofficial depth chart, he becomes expendable with the signing of Boldin. Holmes now has a lot to prove over the next several weeks, and while it may be a long shot to say he is in danger of getting cut, his stock within the organization certainly seems to be sliding.
Rod Streater: Called one of the “highlights” of camp by Sean McDermott, the veteran wideout has seemingly surprised just about everyone with his play so far this summer. Although Boldin’s signing has made competition for one of the final spots tighter, if Streater keeps up his solid play as one of Taylor’s favorite targets over the next couple of weeks, then it may be hard for the Bills to send him packing.
The rest of the bunch: Brandon Tate is safe as a return specialist, and he also showed flashes of being a solid depth receiver last season when the offense was ravaged by injuries. There are several names on the bubble that have experience with the Bills who are long shots to make the 53-man roster. Walt Powell, who is suspended the first four games, probably helped his cause because the Bills won’t have to decide on his fate until October. Dez Lewis, who spent the previous two seasons on Buffalo’s practice squad, also seems poised for a pink slip. Other players that were brought in this offseason such as Philly Brown and Jeremy Butler will most likely become casualties in a numbers game due to the signing of Boldin.
I think the Bills keep six wide receivers: Boldin, Watkins, Jones, Tate, Streater and Holmes, with Powell waiting on the suspended list in case of injury over the first month of the season.
Undrafted free agents Brandon Reilly and Daikiel Shorts will probably find a home on Buffalo’s practice squad for the upcoming season, leaving Dez Lewis, Jeremy Butler, Philly Brown, and Rashad Ross without jobs.