By Will Burchfield / Follow Will @Burchie_kid
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – There’s a scene in ‘Moneyball’ in which Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane and his team of advisors are discussing how to compensate for the loss of slugger Jason Giambi. A few scouts start tossing out names as potential replacements, hoping for Beane’s endorsement.READ MORE: Detroit Zoo Debuts Annual Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Exhibit
Except Beane is thinking in a totally different direction.
“You can’t find another Giambi,” Beane’s likeness Brad Pitt explains. “But you can re-create him through the aggregate.”
Beane’s point is that Giambi’s production transcends replacement, at least by a single player. It’s futile to search for someone else like him. Rather, the team is best served by signing an array of players who, together, can duplicate his output – Giambi 2.0.
Which brings us to Anquan Boldin.
Calvin Johnson’s retirement left the Lions with a Giambi-sized hole at wide receiver. And it couldn’t be filled at once. So GM Bob Quinn set about re-creating Megatron with myriad bits and parts, first signing Marvin Jones and then a slew of ancillary receivers. Those additions, on top of the incumbent Golden Tate, helped recoup what had been lost.
But the Lions were still short. They were still lacking receivers in a passing-dominated league. The loss of Megatron hadn’t scorched the earth, but his shadow still loomed large.
Then on Tuesday afternoon, it was reported that three-time Pro-Bowler Anquan Boldin was joining the Lions. The deal was officially consummated on Thursday, when Boldin signed for one year at $2.75 million. Megatron had been re-made.
Boldin was the final piece.
“He’s obviously a guy that gives you a tremendous amount of experience along with great leadership and he’s maybe one of the best competitors I’ve ever been around in terms of just flat out competing against individuals on game day,” Jim Caldwell said of Boldin.
The coach would know. He was the Ravens’ offensive coordinator in 2012 when Boldin was their leading receiver. Over the course of Bolden’s 65-catch, 900+ yard season, Caldwell gained a first-hand appreciation for his many talents.
“He just has a knack of setting a great tone. He fights for the ball. He makes tough catches. He does all the little things right. He’s also obviously a guy that’s going to get after you on the block,” said Caldwell.
As for how Boldin will be featured in the team’s offense, Caldwell isn’t yet sure. But his versatility will enable him to play a variety of roles.
“He may play some inside, some outside, but we’ll kind of work it out and get him fit within the system,” Caldwell explained.READ MORE: Fourth Stimulus Check: Should You Expect Another Relief Payment?
Bolden comes to the Lions after three seasons with the 49ers. He eclipsed 1,000 yards in both 2013 and 2014 and finished just shy of 800 last year (while playing in only 14 games). At 35 years old, this may be the final chapter in his career. The Lions are eager to help him write it.
“He’s a guy who knows how to win, a very tough, physical, savvy guy,” said Tate. “He’s going to help us win and that’s what we want to do. There’s going to be a lot of competition in our room and I think that’s how we’re going to get better. We’re excited to see what he can do and how he can help us.”
No one will benefit more from the addition of Boldin than Matthew Stafford. Entering his first NFL season without Megatron on his wing, the Lions’ quarterback is going to have to look to someone else for big plays in pressure-packed moments. Boldin will be wearing a different number, but he’ll be a welcome sight just the same.
“He has a long track record in this league of catching a lot of balls and playing in important games, playoff games, Super Bowls, and things like that,” Stafford said. “Not only that, he’s a great guy.”
Stafford said he met Boldin when the Lions brought him in for a visit back in June and came away impressed by his attitude. He has since spoken with some of Boldin’s former teammates, all of whom have confirmed Stafford’s initial impression.
“Obviously I’ve heard from around the league and other guys he’s played with, what a good teammate he is – a good player, and obviously his production speaks for itself. I’m excited to get it going,” Stafford said.
Caldwell said Boldin is a quiet man. Perhaps that’s because his hands speak loudly. Few receivers in the NFL are as dependable as Boldin in coming down with catchable balls, a strength also seen in Tate and Jones. Per SportingCharts.com, Boldin had just two drops on 111 targets last season, Tate three on 128 and Jones two on 103. If those trends continue, the Lions’ top three receivers will be catching everything from Greektown to Midtown.
“That’s the name of the game if you’re a receiver, you gotta be able to catch it,” Tate said. “We have a quarterback who can sling it. We’re just going to keep trying to build trust with Matt, and anything in our area code we want to catch.”
Between Boldin, Tate and Jones, the Lions’ receivers just about cover the NFL spectrum. At one end is Boldin, with 13 seasons under his belt; at the other end is Jones, with just three. And right in between is Tate, who is entering his third season in Detroit, his seventh in the league.
Within that gamut, Boldin is the outlier.
“He’s a rare guy,” said Caldwell. “There’s no question about that. There’s not many guys that still can put up the same numbers he can year in and year out. But I think that also says a lot about him in terms of how he takes care of his body. He’s one of those guys that’s forever been in just peak condition, and worked at it consistently. He’s got a narrow focus.”
Bolden’s skill, competitiveness and tenacity are all easy to spot. Anytime he leaps into the air, fights off a defender (or two) and comes down with the football, those attributes are on full display. But perhaps they are best appreciated from a different perspective.
“We’ve had a lot of battles over the years,” said Glover Quinn, who used to clash with Bolden in the AFC when Quinn’s Texans played the Ravens. “He’s an ultimate competitor, an experienced vet, [has] toughness, grit, all those things. That’s what it takes to play in this league for as long as he has.”MORE NEWS: US Rep. Debbie Dingell's Dearborn Office Broken Into, Vandalized
And certainly that’s what it takes, in part, to fill the void left by Johnson. In the re-creation of Megatron, Boldin will be as instrumental a piece as any.