Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP Photo

Wide receiver Anquan Boldin has unexpectedly announced his retirement from the NFL, just two weeks after signing with Buffalo. (Two weeks in Bills camp will do that to a man.) The 36-year-old Boldin leaves under his own terms, with a higher purpose in mind and the very strong possibility of a bust in Canton in his future.

Boldin’s statement referenced his next mission:

Boldin has been involved with charitable endeavors his whole career—he was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2016—but he’s been keenly focused on criminal justice reform since his cousin, Corey Jones, was shot to death by a plainclothes police officer while waiting for a tow truck.

Advertisement

Boldin, a second-round draft pick out of FSU in 2003 (he dropped on boards after a slow 40-yard dash, but his size and smarts and physicality proved more than enough to get him what little separation he needed to be an inviting target for his quarterbacks), retires after 14 NFL seasons with Arizona, Baltimore, San Francisco, and Detroit, and he racked up some truly impressive numbers along the way—they honestly caught me by surprise, given that seemed rarely if ever to have been the No. 1 receiver on his own teams, or at least not the top vertical threat. He finishes with 1,076 receptions (ninth all-time), 13,779 yards receiving (14th all-time), and 83 touchdowns caught (23rd all-time). Add to that three Pro Bowl appearances and a championship ring won with the Ravens in 2013, and Boldin is a pretty good candidate for the Hall of Fame. (I wouldn’t dare make an actual prediction of his chances, given the Pro Football HOF’s often inexplicable selection process.)

As for the Bills, who have now traded away Sammy Watkins and lost Boldin to retirement in the span of nine days? It may not be a pretty season.