Making the first big splash of NFL free agency, the Seattle Seahawks have signed veteran tight end Greg Olsen to a one-year, $7 million deal. Reportedly, the Hawks beat out both the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins to sign the three-time Pro-Bowler, with his desire to play for a contending team justifying his selection.
Of the free-agent tight ends on the market this year, Olsen is ranked in the third tier, but that’s misleading for what the Seahawks wanted. For the Hawks, Olsen is the clear-cut choice.
The top two available tight ends are Austin Hooper and Hunter Henry. They’re both excellent tight ends, both are ten years younger than Olsen, but both also carry injury history/risks. However, because of their youth and talents, these two are expected to get blockbuster, multi-year deals, which isn’t what the Hawks were looking to do this year for two reasons, the first is Will Dissly. The second…
The next two tight ends on the block are Jacob Hollister and Eric Ebron. Ebron is an astonishing athlete but has had consistent dropped passes, route running, and effort issues. He’ll get a shot from a team this year, but don’t be surprised if he fails to live up to expectations. Hollister, however, had a breakout season in 2019 as a Seahawk when untimely injuries (the theme of the year) pushed him off the practice squad and into the starting lineup, where he excelled. I expect the Hawks to retain him this year, unless the market demands too much.
Finally, Blake Jarwin joins Jordan Reed, Jason Witten, and Olsen in the third tier, and of them, Olsen’s the standout. Reed is beyond an injury risk, with him spending more time in the concussion protocol than out of it in 2019.
This man needs to retire yesterday, and I genuinely hope he does for his own sake. Witten is somehow even older than Olsen and incapable of delivering much of anything on the field or commentator’s booth. Thanks, but pass.
Jarwin, only 26, and has shown some flashes of ability during his limited opportunities behind Witten on the Dallas Cowboys. He’s more akin to Hooper or Henry in terms of youth and ability, but with a far less-accomplished highlight reel thus far, knocking him down a few pegs. He’s a project.
And then there’s Olsen.
Entering the NFL way back in 2007, Olsen played four seasons with the Chicago Bears before being acquired by the Carolina Panthers. And from 2012 to 2016, Olsen was the rock-solid foundation of the Panther’s offense, playing in every single game over those five seasons (and earning a Pro-Bowl selection in ’14, ’15, and ’16), not totally unlike Seattle’s own Mr. Reliable, Russel Wilson.
Want more Greg Olsen stats? Check this out:
· He’s the first tight end in NFL history to put up three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons.
· He currently ranks 5th all-time for catches at the tight end position with 718.
· He also ranks 5th all-time for receiving yards at the tight end position with 8,444.
However, the last three seasons have told a different story, which is why he’s on the market at all. With Olsen only playing 7 games in 2017, 9 games in 2018, and 14 games in 2019. Each of these absence-stricken seasons was the result of injury, mostly an ongoing toe issue. Which is not what you want to see, obviously, but since every NFL player deals with an injury eventually, it’s how they respond to the setback that interests me the most.
That’s why it’s worth pointing out that last year, while the Panthers were going absolutely nowhere with a backup quarterback leading the offense and a beloved head coach on the way out, Olsen showed-up and played his heart out because football matters to him. That, and I’m sure he wanted to showcase enough to earn a deal like this one from Seattle. It’s easy to imagine another player taking it easy in an essentially meaningless season, weary of an untimely injury limiting the upside of any deals to come, but Olsen played hard when cleared to take the field. That matters.
So, there are two questions to consider: why Olsen and why now?
Under general manager John Schneider’s and head coach Pete Carroll’s direction, Seattle’s approach to the tight end position has been a rollercoaster, never really settling on one guy year after year. There have been under-the-radar signings, homegrown draft picks, and ultra-high-profile free agents. Hello Jimmy Graham!
The Seahawks expect the most-unlucky man in Seattle, Will Dissly, coming back from a torn Achilles to be back and ready to play by week 1 in the 2020 season. Veteran Ed Dickson should return from whatever injury kept him of the field in 2019. And the previously mentioned Jacob Hollister should be back to continue developing, if he’s not lured away by a tight end desperate team.
So, what does Olsen bring to this motley crew? A decade of NFL experience, a reputation as a level-headed and passionate leader, and one of the surest set of hands in the league. For example, you can count on Olsen to deliver in the clutch. As a Panther, 65% of Olsen’s catches resulted in a first down. That’s a kind of reliability the Hawks would love to see balancing out the hard-nose run game and deep-threat bombs.
Additionally, aside from Wilson, Bobby Wager, and KJ Wright, there aren’t many older, experienced guys on the Seahawks roster. Which is a good thing, generally, but adding a highly respected presence like Olsen to the mix should do wonders to elevate the team from within the locker room to outside under the bright lights.
The last thing is why now. This season, the Seahawks have over $60 million in cap space, giving them a ton of options of how they want to address team needs and contracts. Looking at the upcoming draft class and where the Hawks have picks, it makes sense to solve certain issues there and others through free agency.
Based on the one-year contract for Olsen, my guess is that they’re looking for immediate help and depth in that position group, allowing them at best to run two tight end formations and at worst have another reliable player to fill in after an injury strikes. During this season, Dissly and Hollister will continue to develop, carving out a future role all their own and the Hawks can be free of Olsen in the 2021 season, as his age pushes him likely into retirement.
Solving the nagging issues at tight end this way allows the team to focus on other positions of need through their remaining cap space and/or draft picks. Which sounds pretty good to me.
Welcome to the Seattle Seahawks, Greg Olsen. On behalf of the 12s everywhere, we’re pumped to have you here and hope you’ll help bring home a championship.