Greg Olsen has been a top tight end in the league, making history this past season. However, the Carolina Panthers need to be prepared for the future.
Focusing on the future while rebuilding for the present is a difficult task that the Carolina Panthers must face in the offseason as they attempt rebound from a mediocre 6-10 season. There aren’t many bright spots for the Panthers after this year, but one player continues to be a model of consistency. Greg Olsen has put together three strong seasons of play. But as he approaches 32 years of age, one must wonder if it’s time for the Panthers to begin to find his replacement.
It’s clear that Olsen is one of Cam Newton’s favorite targets. Since 2012 Olsen has seen the highest level of offensive involvement ever in his career. For five-straight seasons, Newton has targeted Olsen more than 100 times, resulting in two seasons of at least 800 yards and three of at least 1000. In fact, Olsen became the first tight end in NFL history to record three 1000-yard seasons in a row after 2016.
“Well, he’s special, man,” Newton said as reported by Darin Gantt of NBC Sports. “I think one thing about Greg people don’t realize is his knack for understanding football—his IQ is up there. It makes my job a lot easier, especially throwing to him.”
What’s even more impressive is that Olsen has started each of the last five seasons, never missing a game due to injury or another reason. Olsen’s career turnaround has been special as a part of the Charlotte-based organization and much of their continued success will attribute to his performance on the field. That availability makes him an integral piece of this team, even to those that may not be on the field.
“Greg has this calming effect that he can kind of settle everybody down,” Coach Ron Rivera said in that same Gantt piece. “He helps Cam that way. He helps everybody. He helps me every now and then, too. He has that kind of ability. Guys like that are once-in-a-career type guys.”
However, Carolina should always be ready for the unfortunate situation in which Olsen is unavailable. Looking at the roster, Ed Dickson seems to be the next available option for the Panthers. Since joining Carolina in 2014, he’s played well in the backup role and some believe he has the abilities to be a successful contributor if needed as a full-time starter.
Eric Wallace, Scott Simonson and Chris Manhertz round out the current batch of tight ends on the roster. None of these individuals leap off the page as someone that fans should be ready to watch, but they do serve as viable alternatives if everyone is moved up due to an exit by Olsen.
Playing in the NFL comes with an understanding that the “next man up” is expected to be ready to contribute. And the Panthers have built a stable of tight ends that can fill in as needed. Hopefully, Olsen will be available to be a high-level contributor for an extended amount of time. Either way, the Carolina Panthers are ready for both the present and the future.