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How much help will Anquan Boldin be to Bills' desperate situation at receiver?

PITTSFORD -- Something needed to be done. The Buffalo Bills were desperate. If they didn't have a full-fledged crisis at wide receiver, the position easily raised enough questions to make them feel squeamish after 10 training-camp practices.

How much Monday's signing of Anquan Boldin actually solves remains to be seen, although it's as good a solution as any the Bills could find three days before their first preseason game.

Yes, Boldin arrives on the St. John Fisher College campus with the most impressive résumé of any receiver the Bills have, including Sammy Watkins. "I believe he's an easy Hall-of-Famer," General Manager Brandon Beane said.

But that résumé covers 14 years and it's attached to a body that will turn 37 on Oct. 3, two days after the Bills' fourth game of the season. The next-youngest Bills recently turned 34: linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, defensive tackle Kyle Williams and offensive guard Richie Incognito.

Yes, at 36, Boldin was productive in his lone season with the Detroit Lions. He caught 67 passes for 584 mostly possession-type yards and eight touchdowns, the most he has had since his 11 with the Arizona Cardinals in 2008.

"I mean, it’s impressive," Beane said. "When you look back, he had eight touchdowns, 67 receptions. That doesn’t just happen in the NFL. You see him win. Even if his speed is not what it was – you know, he was never a burner – but he still knows how to win, he knows how to play the game. Contested balls, he comes down with his fair share and then some."

And, yes, Boldin does take great care of his body. He does have a tremendous work ethic. His considerable knowledge of running routes and doing all that is necessary to make plays should serve the Bills well, especially quarterback Tyrod Taylor, whose first completion as a Baltimore Ravens backup in 2011 was to Boldin at the end of a blowout loss against the San Diego Chargers.

The question is, how well?

Well enough to pick up the slack if Watkins isn't able to stay healthy? That's a big ask for someone in the twilight of his career, but it's fair to ponder.

Once again, Watkins had the Bills and their loyalists holding their collective breath when he briefly left Sunday's practice with a tweaked ankle. He looked fine in Monday's workout, but what about his left foot, on which he has undergone two surgeries? What about something else cropping up for a guy who has had one physical issue after another since his rookie year in 2014?

Will Boldin's contribution be enough make up for all that the Bills appear to lack at receiver after Watkins? Beane disputes that signing Boldin was a response to the less-than-inspiring performance by the receivers to date.

"Even if I had the likes of Jerry Rice and guys like that on this team, to get an Anquan is an addition and has zero to do with where our receivers are," the GM said.

Still, where they are -- or, at least, were -- can't possibly be comforting to Beane, coach Sean McDermott or anyone else connected with the team. If, as was reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, Boldin backed out of an agreement with the Bills last week, it stands to reason that they felt enough urgency to persist with negotiations that finally led to a one-year deal Schefter said was worth $2.75 million, including $1.25 million in incentives.

Second-round draft pick Zay Jones is an intriguing prospect. If nothing else, he brings tremendous enthusiasm to the position, sprinting from drill to drill and smiling all the way. Yet, Jones does face a major transition from little East Carolina to the NFL, which isn't made any easier by the fact the Bills are working him outside and inside to get a feel for where he fits best and to enhance his versatility.

Rod Streater has been the offensive player not named LeSean McCoy to consistently turn the most heads during camp practices. But it's hard to imagine Streater, a street free agent entering his sixth NFL season, emerging as a go-to target.

For that matter, it's hard to see anyone else that the Bills have at the position, other than Watkins and now Boldin, legitimately having difference-making impact.

Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was far from effusive in his assessment of his receivers Monday morning, before Boldin's signing was announced.

"I think the group has worked very hard," he said. "Obviously, Sammy is very skilled. But that’s what why we picked him (fourth overall in the 2014 NFL Draft). We’re trying to get him more reps and he’s still catching up to some things because he missed OTAs.

"I think the group, we’ve had some highs and some lows as a group, not to point anybody out. I think each of them has made strides and (we’re) trying to get to that point (where there are more highs than lows)."

Can you say, a work in progress?

Beane wouldn't put a timetable on how quickly Boldin would be ready to blend into the Bills' receiver mix. "I think that's up to the coaches," he said. "I know he’s been working out twice a day, I know he knows what it takes, so I have no doubt he will blend in pretty quick."

Boldin ranks ninth in the league all-time with 1,076 receptions and 14th with 13,779 yards. He's 23rd in receiving touchdowns with 82.

The Arizona Cardinals drafted the former Florida State star in the third round in 2003. After seven seasons with the Cardinals, Boldin joined the Baltimore Ravens, with whom he won a Super Bowl during a three-year stint. Boldin also spent three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before joining the Lions last year.

Are the Bills counting on him to be a starter? That's another question Beane deferred to the coaches. But the GM wouldn't discount it, saying Boldin will "compete to do everything and everybody’s going to compete to start (and) for playing time."

Beane and McDermott have frequently talked about building slowly and methodically, following a "process" to turn the Bills into a contender. They have dramatically turned over the roster and are counting on many young players throughout the lineup. Yet, adding a 15th-year pro is the kind of move that suggests more of a win-now mentality, the thinking that was predominant with their immediate predecessors, Doug Whaley and Rex Ryan.

"Again, my job is to win now and to win in the future, and you’re going to constantly hear me say that," Beane said. "Anquan is a move for now, but he’s also a move for the future in the sense that this guy can show what it takes. He’s been there – Super Bowls. I mean, you name it, he’s done it."

The Bills are looking for Boldin to do at least one more thing: provide a lift to an entire receiving corps with his 37th birthday fast approaching.

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