Few football positions have changed as drastically as the tight end in the last dozen years. In that time, tight ends have shifted away from offensive lineman responsibilities, instead becoming more athletic and taking on more wide receiver-like roles. Current tight end Greg Olsen has embodied that change as much as any other player in the league.
Olsen has established himself as one of the best tight ends of all time since entering the league in 2007. At first, that may not seem like so long ago. Yet Olsen himself recently pointed out that he will soon have played with both the retired Terrence Metcalf and his son DK Metcalf. Here we take a look back at Olsen’s career, as well as that surprising proof of his NFL longevity.
Greg Olsen’s career so far
The Chicago Bears took Olsen with the 31st pick of the 2007 NFL draft, quickly signing him to a five-year contract. Olsen played 14 games in his rookie season, starting four of them. He caught 39 receptions for a total of 391 yards, with two touchdowns. In 16 games the following year, Olsen improved to 54 receptions for a total of 574 yards.
During his third year, playing alongside Jay Cutler, Olsen led the Bears in both receptions and receiving yards, at 60 and 612 respectively. Olsen’s numbers dropped somewhat in the following year, and in July 2011, the Bears traded him to the Carolina Panthers for a 2012 third-round draft pick.
Olsen provided a steady force for the Panthers for the next nine seasons. He was selected to Pro Bowls in three consecutive seasons (2014-2016), while also making second-team All-Pro in 2015 and 2016.
Although at times overshadowed by other top-tier tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Gates, Olsen continued to put up stellar numbers and set numerous team records.
Perhaps most impressively, Olsen set a record in 2016 for being the first NFL tight end to string together three consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards or more. Unfortunately, Olsen’s 2017 and 2018 seasons were both marred by injuries. He bounced back in 2019, playing 14 games and making 52 receptions for a total of 597 yards.
Greg Olsen’s future
Despite Olsen’s consistent and reasonably strong play during the 2019 season, the Panthers announced early in February 2020 that they were cutting the 34-year-old tight end. While the parting was said to be a mutual decision, Olsen later clarified that he never asked to leave the team, also stating that his “pride was hurt” over the decision.
On the contrary, the Panthers expressed to him that they wanted to move in a different direction. Many speculated that Olsen might take the opportunity to retire, but he quickly announced his desire to continue his career. Olsen met with several teams, including the Buffalo Bills and the Washington Redskins. Ultimately, however, he signed a one-year $7 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks.
The multigenerational link with the Metcalf family
By signing Greg Olsen, the Seahawks drastically improved their prospects for next season. Not only do they add a reliable tight end — a position they were weak in last year — but Olsen should also prove a highly valuable mentor for the Seahawk’s promising young tight end Will Dissly. Dissly even volunteered to give up No. 88 in deference to the veteran Olsen.
Dissly isn’t the only talented young prospect on the Seahawks’ squad. There’s also promising wide receiver DK Metcalf, who caught 58 receptions last year for 900 receiving yards. Olsen reflected on Metcalf recently during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show. He also reminisced about playing with the young Metcalf’s father Terrence in Chicago.
Olsen and Terrence Metcalf were Bears teammates during the 2007 and 2008 seasons. At that point, the elder Metcalf was at the end of his playing career, getting minutes as a backup offensive lineman. Olsen acknowledged that the father-son link was proof of how old he is. Nonetheless, he should still be able to contribute to the Seahawks 2020 season in a significant way.