The New England Patriots have a glaring need at tight end heading into the 2020 offseason.
A highly decorated one just hit the open market.
The Carolina Panthers announced Thursday they had mutually agreed to part ways with veteran Greg Olsen, who’d been with the team since 2011. Olsen, who turns 35 in March, is not retiring, saying in a statement he has “not closed the door on any potential career options.”
— Greg Olsen (@gregolsen88) January 30, 2020
Olsen’s 2017 and 2018 seasons were ravaged by injuries, but he bounced back with a solid 2019 campaign, catching 52 passes for 597 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games despite playing most of the season with Kyle Allen as his quarterback.
At his age and with his injury history, Olsen wouldn’t be a long-term solution for the Patriots, but he’d be a better option than any tight end they trotted out this season. Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo teamed up to catch just 36 passes for 418 yards and two scores, failing as a group to match the numbers a clearly diminished Rob Gronkowski put up in 2018 (47-682-3).
Expecting Olsen to return to the Pro Bowl, 1,000-yard level he played at four or five years ago would be unrealistic, but he could provide a steadying presence while New England develops a younger tight end. LaCosse and Izzo are the only Patriots tight ends currently under contract for the 2020 season. Watson will be an unrestricted free agent and said he’s likely to retire.
This year’s list of free agent tight ends includes the likes of Hunter Henry, Austin Hooper, Eric Ebron and Tyler Eifert.