The Carolina Panthers and veteran tight end Greg Olsen have mutually agreed to part ways, per multiple reports. While this news doesn’t necessarily seem to be important to the Buffalo Bills, it should be.
Buffalo needs more production from the tight-end spot. They have a promising-looking young rookie in Dawson Knox, but the veteran options on the roster from last season, Tyler Kroft and Lee Smith, combined for only ten receptions, 102 receiving yards, and two touchdowns on 19 targets. Even though Knox has great potential, his rookie-year numbers (28 catches, 388 yards, two touchdowns) were nothing special in an NFL where receiving numbers and passing numbers continue to balloon yearly.
While Olsen may be an older veteran (he turns 35 in March) he still out-produced the entire Buffalo Bills’ tight-end group by himself last year. While Buffalo’s tight ends, when adding Tommy Sweeney’s numbers to the aforementioned trio, combined to catch 46 passes on 82 targets for 604 yards and four touchdowns, Olsen himself nabbed 52 passes on 82 targets for 597 yards and two touchdowns.
The Carolina-to-Buffalo connection is obvious here, as general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott are familiar with Olsen from their shared time with the Panthers. If Olsen wished to join a TV booth instead of continuing his playing career, he probably would have retired rather than negotiated for his release. If Olsen wants to continue playing—even just for another year—he is clearly worth the add to the Bills, and Buffalo should be a comfortable fit for the New Jersey native given his knowledge of the brain trust in Orchard Park.
Adding Olsen on a reasonable contract (think one year at $4 million) would allow the Bills to part ways with both Kroft and Smith, saving the team a net total of $3.5 million (that’s a $7.5 million cap savings by releasing Kroft and Smith minus the $4 million paid to Olsen). If healthy, Olsen is a far superior player to both Kroft and Smith. Not only that, he is the consummate professional, someone who could help Knox quite a bit in his second season in the pros.
Essentially, the Bills would make Olsen their 2020 version of Frank Gore, with Knox playing the role of Devin Singletary. The only difference, I assume, is that the coaching staff would be far more willing to play both the mentor and the mentee together, as a two-tight-end set with Knox and Olsen could wreak havoc on defenses, especially with a burner like John Brown on the outside.
Signing Olsen almost makes too much sense. I imagine that Brandon Beane has already had the same thought cross his mind, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Bills looked to add Olsen sooner rather than later. Remember, like with Vontae Davis after his release from the Indianapolis Colts, the Bills do not have to wait for the start of the free-agent period to sign Olsen given the fact that his contract did not expire.
Olsen is the ideal fit for the Bills in a short-term sense. Let’s hope the Carolina connection remains strong.