The news of Olsen's possible exit came last night in e-mail form when his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, announced that the Bears had given him permission to shop Olsen to other NFL teams. It took less than 16 hours for the Panthers to step and claim him.
Olsen improved as a player each of his first three seasons with the Bears. In 2009, he caught 60 passes for 612 yards and eight touchdowns – all career highs. The team then replaced offensive coordinator Ron Turner with Mike Martz the following season. It was clear immediately that Martz – whose offensive scheme uses tight ends as blockers, not pass catchers – had little use for Olsen's ability to snare the pigskin.
Rumors swirled at the beginning of training camp last year of Olsen's possible departure via trade. He was ultimately kept, yet as most predicted, his on-field production fell substantially. In 2010, he caught just 41 passes for 401 yards and five touchdowns.
TE Greg Olsen
Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire
Olsen has the natural talent to be one of the best tight ends in the league. He is fast, has soft hands, and is taller than nearly every safety or linebacker charged with covering him. He's a matchup nightmare when used properly. But Martz is dead set in his ways and it's obvious he had no intentions of uprooting his offensive system for the talents of just one player. In essence, Olsen had no place in Martz's offense.
As such, it only made sense for the front office to trade him while he still has plenty of value. Letting him go under-utilized for a second-straight season would have only further watered down his trade value.
This news comes on the heels of the team releasing tight end Brandon Malumaleuna and signing Matt Spaeth, formerly with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Manumaleuna was an expensive disappointment last year. He was brought in last offseason to be the big blocking back Martz looks for in his offense, yet his play on the field was sub par at best.
Spaeth has caught 14 passes the last two seasons combined. He's coming in to replace Manumaleuna, not Olsen. He'll serve as the blocking tight end going forward.
These moves propel third-year tight end Kellen Davis up the depth chart. From a size and athletic standpoint, Davis could be a quality contributor in the passing game. He's produced every time he's been given the opportunity. He could end up being the top pass-catching tight end on the team next year. Unfortunately, in a Martz-led offense, that doesn't account for very much.
This complete overhaul of the position may also be a way for the club to augment the mediocre front five currently on the roster. By keeping the tights ends in the box instead of out running patterns, the team may have a better shot at protecting quarterback Jay Cutler.
That may signal the team's desire to lay low in free agency and not overpay for upgrades along the offensive line. They may feel some second-tier players to go along with recent-addition Gabe Carimi may be good enough for the time being. Yet if that's the case, and considering they have nearly $40 million to spend in free agency, when are they going to start spending that money?
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.