Olsen and the Panthers agreed Thursday on a two-year extension, a source informed Adam Schefter of ESPN. The new deal is worth $8.55 million annually and could escalate to $20.1 million in total value.
Olsen was already under contract for 2018 at a $6.5 million base salary, so the extension will keep him in the fold through the 2020 season and provide plenty incentive for the 33-year-old to delay his broadcasting career. Though his 2017 season was disrupted by a Jones fracture of his right foot, Olsen looked to be back at full strength in the Panthers' playoff loss to the Saints in the wild-card round, catching eight of 12 targets for 107 yards and a touchdown in the contest. With Olsen confirming earlier this month that he has no intention of retiring and has endured no setbacks with his foot heading into the Panthers' offseason program, it appears Carolina was comfortable making him one of the NFL's top-paid tight ends. With three 1,000-yard season prior to the injury-abbreviated campaign, Olsen has certainly proven worthy of the large financial commitment.
Olsen declared Tuesday that he's been healthy "for a long time now," Joseph Person of The Charlotte Observer reports. "As big of a pain in the (butt) as it (a Jones fracture ) is, in the grand scheme of things I'm fine," Olsen said. "It just took a little time to heal."
Olsen's 11th season was plagued by a Jones fracture in his right foot, an injury that can linger for months. Even after returning from a nine-game absence Week 12, he sandwiched two near-barren stat lines around a DNP in his first three potential appearances. In his last four, including the Panthers' wild-card defeat at New Orleans, Olsen looked like the tight end of old, posting two 100-yard outings en route to 21 catches for 260 yards (12.4 yards per) and two touchdowns. With months of "no restrictions" behind him, he still has the prospect of his audition for Monday Night Football hanging over his head. According to Person, an ESPN official wouldn't comment Tuesday about Olsen's status as a potential replacement for former color commentator and current Raiders coach Jon Gruden. For what it's worth, the Panthers are under the impression Olsen is keeping an eye toward his career beyond football and intends to play out the final year of his contract.
Olsen is auditioning with ESPN for a broadcasting job, Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports.
Though Olsen clearly is preparing for his next career, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Charlotte Observer says she'd be surprised if the tight end didn't play football for at least one more year. Supporting that notion, ESPN's David Newton relays that the Panthers are aware of Olsen's interview and are under the impression he's simply exploring options for his future beyond 2018. The 33-year-old did lose his phenomenal track record of durability when he missed nine games with a broken foot last season, but he reproved his value with a pair of monster games late in the year, posting a 9-116-1 receiving line in Week 15 against the Packers and an 8-107-1 line in a first-round playoff loss to the Saints. Olsen didn't need a follow-up surgery on his foot and should enjoy a relatively normal offseason while preparing for yet another campaign as Cam Newton's most trusted target.
Olsen said earlier this month that he won't require any follow-up procedures during the offseason on his surgically repaired right foot, David Newton of ESPN.com reports.
Olsen fractured his foot in a Week 2 game after the Bills and returned from injured reserve in Week 12 to play 24 snaps in a win over the Jets, only to suffer a setback in the contest. The recurring soreness in Olsen's foot resulted in him sitting out Week 13, but the veteran tight end suited up and played normal snap counts in the Panthers' final four regular-season contests and looked like his usual, dominant self in Carolina's playoff loss to New Orleans, catching eight of 12 targets for 107 yards and a score. After ending the injury marred campaign on a high note, Olsen looks like he'll be in store for a normal offseason as he enters the final year of his contract in 2018.
Olsen caught eight of 12 targets for 107 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 31-26 NFC wild-card loss to the Saints.
Olsen led the Panthers in all major receiving categories, with his performance highlighted by a 14-yard touchdown to begin the fourth quarter. Considering his Pro Bowl pedigree, Olsen's output Sunday wasn't all that surprising, but it was an uncommon occurrence this season. That's because the veteran was limited to just seven regular-season appearances due to a foot injury. Even when he was available, though, Olsen topped 30 yards just once, finishing with only 17 receptions on 38 targets for 191 yards and one touchdown. Although he'll be 33 years old next season, which is the final under his current contract, Olsen can be counted on to bounce back statistically, assuming he's able to remain healthy.
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