BY Art Thiel 07:00PM 02/18/2020

Thiel: Seahawks sign ex-Panthers TE star Olsen

13-year veteran and three-time Pro Bowl selection Greg Olsen, cut by the Panthers, signed a one-year, $7 million deal to join the Seahawks.

As a Bear in 2011, Greg Olsen caught a 58-yard TD pass beyond Seahawks FS Lawyer Milloy at Soldier Field in Chicago in a Seattle’s 35-24 playoff loss. / Getty Images

Considering they reached the second round of the playoffs with what amounted to a fifth-string tight end (Jacob Hollister) and fourth-string running back (Marshawn Lynch), the Seahawks have a whole lot of personnel business to tend to this off-season.

Which explains a bit of why they jumped a month ahead of the March 18 commencement of regular free agency Tuesday, announcing the signing of TE Greg Olsen, an oft-injured former Carolina Panthers star, to a one-year deal Tuesday worth $7 million, with $5.5 million guaranteed, according to ESPN.

For a guy who missed the two late-season games last season with a concussion, and played only 16 games combined in 2017 and 2018 because of a foot injury, the price seems a little steep, especially since Olsen (6-5, 255 pounds) turns 35 next month.

But the Seahawks anticipate a savings of $3 million at the position when they let go Ed Dickson, who didn’t play last season because of knee problem that never went away. And because the Panthers cut Olsen a couple of weeks ago, rather than pay $11.6 million in the final year of his contract, he was available immediately — plus the Seahawks will not have to surrender a compensatory draft pick in 2021.

When healthy last season, he accumulated 52 receptions for 597 yards and two touchdowns for the Panthers’ broken-down offense absent injured QB Cam Newton.

A Pro Bowl selection from 2014-16, Olsen, a 2007 first-round draft pick (31st overall) out Miami, has 718 receptions and 59 touchdowns in his 13-year career.

He was considering retirement and entering broadcasting — he was already doing XFL games — before deciding on one more season. He took visits to Buffalo and Washington, the latter coached by new hire Ron Rivera, his former boss in Charlotte, before deciding he liked his chances better in Seattle with QB Russell Wilson.

By making a short-term hire of an experienced pro, the Seahawks now have valuable insurance if the return of injured Will Dissly doesn’t go as planned. He’s recovering from surgery to repair an Achilles tendon torn Oct. 13 in Cleveland.

In his season-ending presser, coach Pete Carroll indicated the rehab of Dissly, the former University Washington player who became a big contributor as a pass catcher and blocker, was going well. He had 262 yards on 23 catches before being hurt.

“He’s killing the rehab,” Carroll said. “Will is doing great. He’s spending some time down in LA to get right. He’s really fired up about the people that he’s working with and the progress he’s making. He’s been around a lot. He’ll get it done.”

Rookie Hollister began the season behind Dissly, Dickson, Nick Vannett (since traded) and competed with late-comer returnee Luke Willson. Hollister wound up starting most of the season, including the road playoff games in Philadelphia and Green Bay, but his blocking and lack of experience were liabilities. He’s a restricted free agent who can be retained if Seattle makes a qualifying offer. Willson, an unrestricted free agent, is unlikely to be asked back.

The Seahawks’ passing game, already trying to compensate for the retired Doug Baldwin, dwindled a bit in Dissly’s absence. Olsen gives the Seahawks another playmaker for Wilson to target.

The Seahawks have about $50 million in room under the cap, but have to make numerous decisions on whether to keep their own free agents, particularly DE Jadeveon Clowney, who is reported to be seeking a top-of-market deal for a defender, which would put him around $23 million to $25 million a year.

But for the moment, GM John Schneider can check the box marked TE.


  • Husky73

    I am hoping that Dissly can play 16 games, plus playoffs.

    • coug73

      Hope is not a method over paying for the TE position is madness.

      • art thiel

        Is 5.5 an overpay? I don’t think so.

        • coug73

          My concern is Olsen is going to be 35 in March and the last few years has had injury problems. I can’t say he’s a bargain not being knowledgeable about pay scale for older TE’s with a history of success and injuries behind him. Wish him and the Hawks the the best.

      • Husky73

        I know there’s a sentence or two in there somewhere. (smiling)

        • coug73

          My t s eliot moment

  • Effzee

    Going back to the well again, eh? Well, there goes $5.5M guaranteed for a guy who will probably play as many snaps as Ziggy did. I am not digging the overpaying-the-injured-old-guys- pattern. No longer a fan of fingers-crossed hoping-for-the-best acquisitions.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! Like others, bringing in very accomplished yet oft-injured-of-late talent isn’t all that exciting because of the readiness doubt. We’re getting to be experts in hoping for the long shots. On the flip side, we also have experience playing against Olsen and know of his threat. This move increases the competition and experience for the TE position, which is a plus, a bit expensive albeit. If nothing else, had Olsen been in Hollisters position, he definitely would have shined where the plays fell short.

    • art thiel

      Risks are always high for any 35 yo in the NFL. He had recovered in 2019 from his foot injury, but the issue will be mobility. 13 years as an NFL TE. Brutal.

      • jafabian

        The Hawks should always go for the best player on the board when it’s their turn to pick in the draft however I’m hoping they go for an offensive lineman even though they haven’t had the best of luck overall with a few exceptions. But their percentage of success IMO is questionable based on the number of O-linemen they’ve picked.

        • art thiel

          You can block better than Graham.

  • Alan Harrison

    Hey there – thanks for the details. Seems like a good deal, if he is not the center of the offense. Meanwhile… other than Clowney, is there a chance the team could kick the tires on Jack Conklin and drop Ifedi? Conklin seems to be a great run blocker and a better pass protector and I just can’t get past Ifedi being beaten So. Many. Times.

    • art thiel

      Ifedi had 13 pens and six sacks given up. Conklin was seven and four. Ifedi is likely to get good money because healthy, adequate OLs are rare. But Conklin will be more expensive.

      • ll9956

        Good use of extra cap room?

  • Tim Duncan

    so this will work out better than zach miller and jimmy graham ?

    • art thiel

      Miller worked out pretty well. And I’m certain Olsen is an uptick from Jerramy Stevens, even though he made it to a Super Bowl with the Seahawks.

      • DJ

        Dito on Zach Miller. Jimmy who?

    • TimJoFred

      It still rankles me that the Seahawks gave up Max Unger for Jimmy Graham.

  • jafabian

    Considering the number of injuries that hit the Hawks roster last season I imagine they’ll keep Willson on speed dial. Hollister seemed overmatched at times but IIRC he was battling a number of nagging injuries the last part of the season and the playoffs. He was overall a pleasant surprise. I wonder if the Hawks might keep 4 TE’s and one less FB? Since Mike Robinson retired they really don’t use that position.

    • art thiel

      Hollister is a little small for the position and was overmatched at times.

      It’s impossible to forecast roster needs now when it comes to spot 53. They could need a ninth OL.

      • jafabian

        Teams should always go for the best player on the board when it’s their turn to pick in the draft however I’m hoping the Hawks go for an offensive lineman even though they haven’t had the best of luck overall with a few exceptions. But their percentage of success IMO is questionable based on the number of O-linemen they’ve picked.

        • art thiel

          OL should come first, especially if enhancing Wilson is job 1.

    • DJ

      If run game is the priority, then FB is a must, at least part time what with variations in formation. While the Hawks haven’t used a FB a lot, that’s doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have. With somewhat less than stellar O-Line play, you gotta help the blocking any way you can. FB and extra TE’s should be in your tool belt.

      • jafabian

        Marshawn’s best seasons came when The Real Rob Report was in the backfield with him.

  • Kirkland

    How good is Olsen at blocking and making tough catches in traffic? Better than Jimmy Graham, I hope?

    • art thiel

      Yes and yes. Olsen is the real deal, except for being 35.

  • tor5

    I trust your expertise, Art, when you say Hollister was over-matched at times. But, man, he made a number of clutch plays. That’s all I really remember. I hope he’s retained.

    • art thiel

      True. But pass catching is less than half the TE job. He’s 240 pounds, and that’s with a bag of groceries.

  • DB

    Bring back the 2 tight end offense with Diss and Olsen on the field at the same time!

  • ll9956

    I hope Olsen turns out to be a significant contributor. It would be nice if he doesn’t fall into the trap that some senior athletes do (Felix?), where they end up staying on one season too long and their decreasing skills become painfully apparent.