2016 will be a year of transition for wide receivers on the Detroit Lions’ roster. Obviously the news of Calvin Johnson’s retirement had most people thinking that the Lions’ receiving corps would take a step back from where it has been in recent years. That is a very fair expectation to have. Calvin Johnson was one of the most dominant receivers in the NFL for a long time, and it is unrealistic to expect the Lions to find a player who could replace his production. However, first-year GM Bob Quinn did a good job at creating depth at the wide receiver position, which is something the Lions haven’t had much of in the past. The past two seasons the Lions relied heavily on Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, who are two very good players, but they didn’t have a third receiver they could count on. And in 2013 the Lions second wide receiver was Kris Durham for majority of the season. Going off of the Adam Ostermeier’s 53-man roster projections, the Lions’ wide receivers will be Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin, T.J. Jones, and Andre Roberts.
Lions’ Receiving Corps Upgrades
The first move Bob Quinn made to upgrade the Lions’ receiving corps was sign former Cincinnati Bengal Marvin Jones to a 5-year contract worth $40,000,000. Jones, who is 26 years old, was considered by many to be the best free agent wide receiver on the market at the start of free agency. Marvin’s breakout year was the 2013 season where he had 51 receptions for 712 yards, and grabbed 10 touchdowns. Unfortunately Marvin was unable build on his 2013 success; he missed the entire 2014 season with ankle/foot injuries. But Jones came back strong and had a productive 2015 season, he caught 65 balls for 816 yards and 4 touchdowns. In Jones, the Lions have a complete receiver. He runs good routes, has above average hands, and is very capable of making big plays deep down the field.
Another move Quinn made was bringing in a veteran receiver, 35-year-old Anquan Boldin. Boldin has been a productive player during his 13 years in the league. So far in his career he has posted 1,009 receptions for 13,195 yards and 74 touchdowns. In 2012 Boldin won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens. Although he is well past his prime Boldin is a physical player with a consistent pair of hands, and will still be able to contribute as a Detroit Lion. He will be a guy that Stafford will be able to count on to make tough catches to keep the chains moving. Boldin also brings years of wisdom, as well as leadership to the Lions. A respected player around the league, whether it be in the huddle or in the locker room, whenever Boldin talks people will listen.
The Lions’ receiving corps has the chance to be very productive. The top three receivers on the depth chart should compliment each other well. Golden Tate is a guy who can make big plays with his yards after the catch, Marvin Jones is a legitimate threat down the field, and Anquan Boldin can be counted on when the team needs a big third down conversion. And even the 4th and 5th receivers on the team are guys who could help the Lions in 2016. Although T.J. Jones hasn’t done a lot at the NFL level yet, he is still a young player (24 years old) who has the potential to make big plays. Jones also brings the ability to contribute to the team as a returner. And Andre Roberts is a guy who has had some pretty good years in the NFL. In his best year, 2012, Roberts caught 64 passes for 759 yards and 5 touchdowns as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. And like T.J. Jones, Roberts can also help the return game.
Obviously the fact that Calvin Johnson retired was a big blow to the Lions, but Bob Quinn did a very good job at adding some players who will be able to make life after Calvin easier. The Lions won’t have a big time star to throw the ball to in 2016, but they will have a group of receivers who will be able to produce and keep the offense moving. Matthew Stafford will have more quality receivers to throw to this year than he has had in the past. So in conclusion, yes, Calvin will be missed, but the Detroit Lions’ receiving corps in 2016 will be just fine.
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