Gunner Olszewski Reportedly Leaving Patriots, Signing With Steelers

Olszewski was a first-team All-Pro in 2020

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The New England Patriots’ All-Pro punt returner found a new home Friday.

Wide receiver/return man Gunner Olszewski is signing a two-year, $4.2 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to a report from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.

The Patriots chose not to tender Olszewski as a restricted free agent. The lowest-level tender would have paid him $2.4 million for the upcoming season.

Olszewski joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of Division-II Bemidji State in 2019. A college cornerback, he transitioned to wide receiver upon arriving in New England and made the Patriots’ 53-man roster as a rookie.

The 25-year-old made minimal offensive contributions over his three seasons in Foxboro (nine catches, 127 yards, one touchdown in 2019) but was an asset in the kicking game. A fan favorite for his playing style, which straddled the line between aggressive and reckless, he enjoyed one of the best seasons ever by an NFL punt returner in 2020, averaging a league-best 17.3 yards per return to earn first-team All-Pro honors.

Olszewski averaged 11.9 yards per punt return in 2021 — good for second in the NFL behind Baltimore’s Devin Duvernay — and also was the Patriots’ primary kick returner.

It’s unclear who will take over punt-return duties for New England in 2022. New signee Ty Montgomery has extensive kick return and special teams experience but never has returned an NFL punt. Safety Kyle Dugger hasn’t been used in that capacity with the Patriots but was a prolific punt returner in college. Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers and running back J.J. Taylor are other potential in-house options.

New England also could add another return man through free agency or next month’s NFL draft.

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