WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Free agent receiver Anquan Boldin is 36 and just finished his 14th season in the NFL in 2016 with the Lions, but retirement isn’t something that’s on his mind. He said Thursday that he plans to play in 2017.
“I’m still healthy, still going strong,” Boldin said at his charity golf event for the Q81 Foundation, which helps raise money for underprivileged children in his hometown of Pahokee, Florida. “I still have the passion.”
Now that Boldin is committed to playing this season, the next question is where he will suit up. He wouldn’t commit to a team, but there should be several suitors for his services.
Two of his former teams, Baltimore and Detroit, have already expressed an interest. And at the golf course, Lions defensive tackle Haloti Ngata showed up wearing a team polo shirt and hat.
Ngata came to support Boldin’s charity, but he also joked that he wore his Lions gear because this is “definitely a recruiting trip.” Ngata said Boldin can still be a viable contributor to any team, especially Detroit, where he was the No. 3 receiver last year behind Golden Tate and Marvin Jones.
“I want to make sure he still remembers us,” Ngata said. “If he comes back, it will be fun.”
Lions general manager Bob Quinn said at the recent NFL league meetings that a reunion with Boldin in Detroit is a definite possibility. Boldin had 67 catches for 584 yards and led the team with eight touchdowns in 2016.
“I’ve put him in the category of guys that we’ve talked to here in the last couple of months,” Quinn said, according to the team’s official website. “I think Anquan, he did a great job for us this year. ... So he’s definitely an option. We haven’t made any decision on that one way or the other, but he’s still out there.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh also said at the NFL league meetings that he would like Boldin back in Baltimore as well. He spent three seasons with the Ravens from 2010-12 and caught 186 passes for 2,645 yards and 14 touchdowns over that span. Boldin also helped Baltimore win Super Bowl XLVII before he was traded to San Francisco in 2013.
The Ravens could use a possession receiver like Boldin with Steve Smith retired and Kamar Aiken gone as a free agent to Indianapolis. The top two receivers currently on Baltimore’s roster are Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman, and Boldin would be a good fit in the slot.
“I don’t know if Anquan wants to come back,” Harbaugh said. “That would be another thing we’d have to look into. I do believe he can still play at the highest level. His ability and his skills are such that he’s not going to drop off the edge just because of how he plays. I know he loved it in Baltimore, and I loved him in Baltimore. Didn’t want him to have to leave when it happened. That’s just the way things worked out. I’d be for it.”
Boldin said he will likely wait to sign with a team until closer to training camp, and he signed with the Lions last year in late July. He continues to stay in shape with noted NFL trainer Tony Villani at XPE Sports in Boca Raton, Florida, and Villani said Boldin can likely play another two or three more years if he wanted.
Villani said that Boldin jokes with him that after his NFL days are done as a receiver that he plans to play quarterback in the Canadian Football League. Boldin was a standout quarterback at Pahokee High School before converting to receiver at Florida State.
“He can just outwork everyone still,” Villani said. “He just loves the game so much. I know he can play. It’s just getting in the right system.”
“Why wouldn’t you?” Fitzgerald said. “When you still perform at a high level and still enjoy doing it, he’s got a passion and a great skill level. Why shouldn’t he?”
Boldin is currently No. 9 on the NFL’s all-time receptions list with 1,076 catches, which is two behind Terrell Owens at No. 8. He could potentially move into the top five, since Marvin Harrison is at No. 4 with 1,102 catches and Cris Carter is at No. 5 with 1,101.
Boldin is also at No. 14 all-time in receiving yards at 13,779 and tied with Brandon Marshall and Reggie Wayne at No. 23 all-time in receiving touchdowns with 82.
In addition to working out with Villani, Boldin has spent his offseason working with his foundation to raise money. He calls his annual charity event Q-Fest, which is in its 13th year. In 2015, Boldin won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his community service.
“He sets a tremendous example of what it means to give back to your community,” Fitzgerald said.
For Boldin, he’s proud of the work he does for his community. And he’s excited to play another season in 2017. We’ll have to wait to see where he ends up, but he should continue to contribute for at least one more year in the NFL.