Former Panthers’ TE Greg Olsen is signing a one-year, $7 million deal that includes $5.5M gtd with the Seahawks, per source. Olsen visited and negotiated with Buffalo, Seattle and Washington but felt most comfortable with the Seahawks.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 18, 2020
An off-season is like a puzzle. You need to piece everything together — it’s just a case of working out how you’re going to do it.
Every team has needs. They also have a set amount of cap space, some draft picks and an existing roster. The teams who succeed generally identify the best ways to find impact and fill as many holes as possible using all the resources at their disposal.
The Seahawks have a lot to do this off-season. Gratefully they also have the means to get a lot done. There’s $50m in cap space (and realistic ways to create more). They have three picks in the first two rounds of the draft and plenty more to follow.
Signing Greg Olsen is the first move of a vital few weeks ahead. There’s equally a lot of logic to the signing and one significant question mark.
Why the move makes sense
The 2020 draft is not a good class for tight ends. It’s possible we won’t see any taken in the top-50. There are some intriguing players, such as Hunter Bryant and Cole Kmet. This isn’t like last year though where the depth is quite thick throughout and you can find highly athletic TE’s on each of the three days.
For that reason, the Seahawks — who needed to add a tight end — were almost always going to turn to the veteran market. Reportedly they looked at potential trades before the 2019 deadline once Will Dissly had been lost for the season. Nothing materialised. The Bengals seemingly weren’t even willing to deal often-injured pending free agent Tyler Eifert during a lost season.
Has anything changed? Presumably they’ve asked. Teams are already talking, as we learnt from yesterday’s report regarding Darius Slay and possible trade activity. We’ll have to wait and see what happens but it’s possible the likes of O.J. Howard and David Njoku simply aren’t available — at least for a realistic price.
Free agency was going to provide some options. Hunter Henry has suffered injuries but is talented. Austin Hooper is set to leave the Falcons due to their tight cap situation. Eric Ebron is also reaching the market as is Eifert.
You’d think the Chargers would use the franchise or transition tag on Henry but we’ll see. Ebron, aside from one good season with Andrew Luck, has had a disappointing career. Eifert just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Hooper seemed like the best option because of his consistency, blocking, short shuttle (valued by Seattle), availability and age (26).
The problem is he was going to be expensive. He could end up being the highest paid tight end in the league next month, with a salary topping $10m a year. If George Kittle signs an extension before free agency, the price could sky-rocket. It would also be a long term commitment, stretching four or five years.
The Seahawks need a tight end but it’s not their greatest issue. That rests with the defensive line. Any potential saving is encouraging, especially if you can find a short term solution.
For example, let’s say they agree a new deal with Jadeveon Clowney worth anywhere between $20-24m a year. In order to get as much done as possible in 2020, they’ll probably look to limit his year-one cap hit. Kansas City did the same with Frank Clark. His cap hit in 2019 was $6.5m. Khalil Mack in Chicago had a cap hit of $13.8M and $11.9M in his first two years with the Bears.
This becomes more of a problem if you’re structuring deals like this with multiple players. Signing Clowney and Hooper to long term big contracts would potentially put them in cap trouble 2-3 years down the line — as we’re seeing with Minnesota, Atlanta and Chicago currently.
A one-year deal for a veteran is ideal. There’s no commitment beyond 2020.
Greg Olsen fits perfectly for this off-season scenario.
Now they can sign Clowney and structure his deal however they want. They can be creative with other additions. Yes — a $7m salary isn’t cheap for a 34-year-old with a recent history of injuries. But it provides them with a proven target this year and allows them to let Dissly recover and then prove he is the future for Seattle at tight end. Signing Austin Hooper would make him the future and leave Dissly on the periphery.
Olsen had 597 yards in 14 games in 2019. It’s unrealistic to expect fantastic, mega production from him at this stage in his career. All they’ve done, really, is upgrade Olsen for Ed Dickson at a cost of about $4m (they’ll save $3m when they cut Dickson). When you put it like that — and with the opportunity it provides Dissly to stake a claim in 2020 — there’s real logic behind this addition.
Why the move carries a question mark
Injuries. Olsen has missed 18 games in the last three seasons. Dissly, sadly, is in a position now where he has to prove he can stay healthy. Now they’ve acquired a player, at some cost, who also has a recent history of missing games.
A number of teams need tight end help and they’re all staring at a thin draft class at the position. Yet only three teams officially visited with Olsen. The Redskins — coached by Ron Rivera who is tight with Olsen through Carolina. The Bills — coached by Sean McDermott who is tight with Olsen through Carolina. And the Seahawks.
Seattle was the only team with no previous connection to Olsen to show interest. The Patriots? Nowhere to be found. Ditto several others who really needed a TE.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t hold talks or even receive offers. The small market (and one defined by previous relationships) isn’t encouraging though to any outside observer.
The success or failure of this addition however will purely be down to availability. If he stays healthy, he will contribute. He’s a quality player. If he misses serious game time — the Seahawks will be open to criticism.
Ultimately though, as noted above, they had to make a call. It’s encouraging that they actually fought off competition from Rivera in particular — who Olsen has tremendous respect for. That shows he wants to contend and that the Seahawks were appealing (which isn’t a surprise given the teams’ unique culture and the quarterback throwing the football). That’s a good sign heading into a month where they’re going to need to convince several other players to join the movement.
You can now support Seahawks Draft Blog via Patreon by clicking the tab below.