The opening days of the NFL's free agency/trade "season" has led to several brow-raising moves from clubs. Whether it be the Seahawks choosing Tarvaris Jackson over Matt Hasselbeck, the Chargers giving up a Pro Bowl contract to safety Eric Weddle or the release of several starting caliber players by various teams, there have been plenty of surprises already.
One of the more interesting ones happened yesterday when the Chicago Bears traded away former first round pick Greg Olsen to the Carolina Panthers for a third round selection in the 2012 draft.
Olsen, 6-6 and 254 pounds and having been timed at 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the 2007 Scouting Combine is one of the league's most physically gifted tight ends. His statistics won't show it. After all, he's averaged only 10.2 yards per catch over his career and his "breakout" 2009 season (60 catches for 612 yards and eight TDs) resulted in nearly double the touchdowns as any other season of his career. While only an average blocker, his size, speed and secure hands would have resulted in a Pro Bowl nod or two already had he been in an offense that catered to him.
Now, he's going to one that will.
This trade had everything to do with scheme. The Bears run a multiple-receiver offense under offensive coordinator Mike Martz. It is the same offense that Martz ran to great success in St. Louis (and considerably less so in Detroit). The scheme didn't put Olsen (or any tight end, really) in position to be a significant part of the team's passing attack.
The Carolina Panthers, on the other hand, are incorporating former San Diego Chargers' tight ends coach Rob Chudzinski's offense. Chudzinski, you might recall, had the benefit of working with Antonio Gates, so it is safe to say that he understands the value of a mismatch of an athletic tight end.
But, that isn't the end of the Chudzinski-tight end connection. Prior to his NFL gigs (including being the offensive coordinator under Romeo Crennel with the Cleveland Browns), Chudzinski was the offensive coordinator at the University of Miami where he coached All-Americans Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow II. Chudzinski left Miami the year before Olsen arrived at The U.
Considering their strong running game, deep threat in Steve Smith and young quarterbacks in Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen, the Carolina Panthers appear to be an ideal fit for Olsen. The young passers have been given a Pro Bowl caliber security blanket and the Panthers gave up just a third round pick to get him.
With the exorbitant prices of free agency, player trades being seen this week, Olsen could prove the best value thus far this year.