NFL: Is Greg Olsen a Hall of Fame Tight End?

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen entered the NFL in 2007. Since then, he’s evolved into one of the league’s very best at the position. Unfortunately, his 2018 season was marred by injury. There are rumblings that Olsen may retire this offseason even though he’s still relatively young. What may get him off the field is ESPN offering him the Monday Night Football color commentator job vacated by Jason Witten this offseason.

If Olsen does take the job and hangs up his jersey at the age of 34, it will lead to the inevitable question: Is Greg Olsen a Hall of Fame tight end? To explore that topic a little further, let’s start by diving into the numbers.

Greg Olsen’s career stats

Olsen’s career numbers so far have been excellent. With both the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers, he has 57 touchdowns, 7,847 receiving yards, and 666 receptions. Making these gaudy statistics even more impressive is the fact that Olsen played in only seven and nine games in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, respectively.

Olsen’s most productive years came between the 2012 and 2016 seasons. During that time, Olsen never averaged less than 50 yards per game in a season. From 2014 to 2016, he never averaged less than 60. He also never averaged less than 4.3 receptions per game.

Greg Olsen made three Pro Bowls and is 11th on the NFL’s list of active leaders in receiving touchdowns. He made the Associated Press All-Pro team in 2015 and 2016.

While injuries slowed him the last two seasons, Olsen’s offensive impact is undeniable. To truly gauge his effectiveness, it helps to also measure him against players at his position in the same era.

How Greg Olsen compares to other tight ends of his era

Olsen is most definitely overshadowed by one tight end of the last 10 years: The recently retired Rob Gronkowski, who’s been called the best tight end to play the game.

Another tight end of this era who overshadowed Olsen? The Chargers’ Antonio Gates, who broke the record for all-time touchdowns by a tight end during the 2017 season. The man Olsen may replace in the booth, Jason Witten, was third all-time in touchdowns by a tight end with 64, seven more than Olsen.

Olsen has played in a golden era for tight ends. Despite that, he still ranks highly among the league’s all-time best. When Athlon Sports ranked the greatest tight ends of all time, Olsen clocked in at No. 11 overall.

Players whose careers most closely match his

When trying to evaluate the careers of NFL players, Pro Football Reference has a handy

section of similar players. This is where a player’s career is compared, in each season, to another player who produced a similar statistical output.

That is extremely helpful when trying to put a player’s career in context by comparing him to other players at his position. Multiple seasons of Olsen’s career resemble the output of Charlie Sanders and Ozzie Newsome, who are two Hall of Fame tight ends.

Is Greg Olsen a Hall of Fame tight end?

Greg Olsen is one of the best tight ends of his era.
Greg Olsen will head to Canton someday. | Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Greg Olsen never quite had the devastating offensive impact of Rob Gronkowski. He didn’t achieve the same excellence as Antonio Gates. He also never quite churned out the consistent longevity of Jason Witten.

What he did do, however, was establish himself as one of the premier pass-catching tight ends of his era. When compared with several other Hall of Fame tight ends, Olsen is right there with them.

So here’s our not-so-bold prediction: At some point, whenever he retires, Greg Olsen should start working on his Hall of Fame speech because he is headed to Canton.