Afternoon-drive co-hosts Terry Boers and Dan Bernstein on WSCR 670 AM – better known as "The Score" to Chicago sports talk radio aficionados – are anything but wishy-washy with their opinions.
Their latest diatribe with regard to the Monsters of the Midway centers around the trade value of tight end Greg Olsen, the team's first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. According to Boers and Bernstein, once the Bears hired Mike Martz as their new offensive coordinator, the front office did everything it could to ship Olsen out of town since Martz's system has never featured the tight end position. However, once general manager Jerry Angelo and Co. realized they couldn't get anything better than a fifth rounder in return for Olsen, they reluctantly decided to keep him.
When asked Friday about Boers and Bernstein's claim that he has no place in Martz's offense by a follower on his Twitter account, Olsen responded by tweeting The Score "leads [the] league in stirring up controversy."
Selected No. 31 overall out of Miami, a school that has produced its fair share of productive tight ends over the years, Olsen has recorded 153 catches for 1,577 yards and 15 touchdowns in 46 career games. The 6-5, 252-pound former Hurricane set career highs across the board in 2009, reeling in 60 passes for 612 yards and eight TDs, although he fell short of the Pro Bowl expectations placed before him once the Bears traded for rocket-armed quarterback Jay Cutler. Olsen and Cutler became fast friends, both on the field and on Rush Street, but now that Martz will be wearing the headset, it's fair to wonder if Olsen has already become expendable in Chicago at the tender age of 25.
Martz was the Rams offensive coordinator in 1999 and head coach from 2000 to midway through 2005, and the most productive tight end he had during that time was Ernie Conwell, catching 38 passes in 2001. As the Lions offensive coordinator from 2006-07, Daniel Campbell recorded 21 receptions in 2006. Martz's lone campaign calling plays for the 49ers in 2008, even Vernon Davis, who was a Pro Bowler last year and tied for the league lead with 13 touchdown catches, was on the receiving end of just 31 throws.
Nevertheless, since he is a talented pass-catching tight end in what is increasingly a pass-happy National Football League, shouldn't Olsen be worth more than a pick in Round 5?
Maybe, maybe not. By comparison, Oakland's Zach Miller, who was taken early in the second round of the same draft that produced Olsen, has more catches (166) and more yards (2,027) than Olsen through Year 3 of their respective careers. While Olsen had Cutler throwing him the ball for 16 games in 2009, Miller had to work with the likes of JaMarcus Russell, Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye.
One of the automatic arguments made by Olsen supporters was the dearth of talent on the Bears roster at receiver, which allowed defenses to keep rotating coverage his direction and effectively eliminate him from the game plan.
But no Raiders wideout caught more passes than rookie Louis Murphy's 34, yet Miller still found a way to deliver 66 receptions for 805 yards last year. The aforementioned Davis didn't get to play with future superstar Michael Crabtree until Week 7 because of his contract holdout, yet he had 78 grabs for 965 yards. Not only did Kellen Winslow (77 catches, 884 yards) of the Buccaneeers have to suffer through the three-headed QB monster of Byron Leftwich, Josh Johnson and rookie Josh Freeman, but primary target Antonio Bryant was only on the receiving end 39 times.
And contrary to popular opinion, it is possible for a tight end to be an above-average pass catcher and an above-average run blocker at the same time, as evidenced by Pittsburgh's Heath Miller, who caught 76 passes for 789 yards and takes pride in pushing defenders off the ball in the ground game.
Olsen also said via Twitter that he would put his blocking "up against any other pass catching TE," but anyone who saw the Midway Monsters try to run the ball in 2009 knows he's kidding himself.
Take a look around the league. Not a lot of teams are in desperate need of a tight end these days. In addition to the players highlighted above, Kevin Boss, John Carlson, Brent Celek, Dallas Clark, Chris Cooley, Owen Daniels, Jermichael Finley, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Todd Heap, Dustin Keller, Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jeremy Shockey and Jason Witten are all either better than Olsen or arguably just as good. When added to Davis, Winslow and the two Millers, that covers 20 of the 32 franchises. No wonder Angelo couldn't find a trade partner willing to surrender a pick in Round 2 or 3.
Olsen worthy of just a fifth rounder? At first glance, that seems a little low. But after thinking about it a bit, that sounds about right.
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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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