The 32 year old three time Pro Bowl tight end will enter the 2018 off-season on the final year of his current extension with the Panthers. Olsen has become one of the most important pieces of the offense and the top receiving targets for the former MVP Cam Newton throughout his career.
While the Panthers have searched for his eventual successor through Free Agency and the Draft the last few seasons by bringing in a lot of potential tight ends and even signing Ed Dickson in 2014. So far they have been unsuccessful in filling that role or even finding someone to develop into it.
Olsen has stated in past interviews that he intends to finish his career and retire in Carolina, but even at 32 years old Olsen is still producing at a very high level and shows no signs of slowing down after his 3rd straight 1,000-yard season.
Given the situation at tight end and the lack of potential successors at this time Gettleman will need to look to extend the long time tight end in 2018 for two to three more seasons.
As reported by Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer from Mini Camp this week. Olsen does indeed want his contract to be extended but he wants to be paid like one one of the top tight ends in the league. Which he should.
By just about any measure, Olsen has out-performed the contract, which runs through the 2018 season.
And now he wants another one.
Olsen, who’s made the Pro Bowl the past three seasons, is looking for a deal that is commensurate with the NFL’s top tight ends, according to a pair of league sources.
Olsen’s $7.5 million per-year average makes him the league’s seventh-highest paid tight end, behind Jimmy Graham ($10 million), Travis Kelce ($9.4 million), Jordan Reed ($9.35 million), Rob Gronkowski ($9 million), Zach Ertz ($8.5 million) and Charles Clay ($7.6 million).
Olsen is 12th among tight ends in terms of guaranteed money.
The only problem in this discussion is what will the Panthers be giving up to keep Olsen at that type of money? The answer may be in the details and structure of the deal and the cap itself.
If the cap continues to rise about $10 million a season. Then accommodating Olsen if structured right shouldn’t be a problem. Especially if you push a lot of the cap hits to the back end of his extension like most contracts do.
They could also look to free up some space elsewhere with some cuts to give Olsen the pay raise he is seeking.
Not only will extending Olsen allow the Panthers more time to find his eventual successor. It will allow Gettleman the opportunity to free up some of that $9.75 million cap that Olsen is to account for against the cap in 2018 currently. Which will give more for the team to use in the off-season.
This would allow Olsen one final contract to play until he is 35 or 36 years old and give the team until 2020 or 2021 to fill his role. It would also let Olsen’s final contract run until it’s time to renew Cam Newton’s contract for a second time as well.
The 29 year old tight end will be entering the final year of his contract in 2017 and be a unrestricted free agent in the 2018 off-season. While Dickson was brought in to serve as a fellow pass catcher to Olsen much like Shockey did in the offense.
The production just has not been there. Dickson has only totaled 370 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns during his three seasons with the Panthers. While his receiving production has been disappointing he has served well as a blocking tight end for those seasons.
The problem the Panthers will face in 2018 is the lack of depth at tight end on the roster much like it will in 2017. That is if it’s not addressed by a trade or a sudden break out player before then.
Gettleman will need to figure out if re-signing Dickson to continue to fill depth temporarily is the best approach or if it’s finally time to focus a higher draft pick in 2018 to finally address the position across from Olsen and develop his eventual successor.
At this time I cannot see them re-signing Dickson in 2018, but I won’t rule it out mattering on how free agency plays out in 2018. So while I think the door is cracked for a return, I believe it’s more likely they move in a different direction next off-season.