CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen is prepared to become a free agent in 2019 or consider potential opportunities in television this season if the Carolina Panthers don’t extend his contract.
Olsen, who last month interviewed for the Monday Night Football analyst job previously held by Jon Gruden, is entering the final year of a three-year extension signed in March of 2015.
The 33-year-old said his first choice is to remain with the Panthers through the end of his career. He believes he can continue to play at a top level for another three to five seasons.
But Olsen, the first tight end in NFL history to have three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons, could have other options if ESPN or another network offers something for this season. ESPN is two weeks to a month from making an announcement on Gruden’s replacement and the rest of the MNF crew.
“My preference would be to continue to play,” Olsen told ESPN.com as the Panthers completed the second day of offseason workouts. “I still love playing for the Panthers and I would prefer to finish my career at Carolina. I wouldn’t see myself love to go play elsewhere.
“But this is the last year of my contract. A lot of that plays into what the future holds. Where we are in all of that, I’m not really sure. As the offseason plays out, it would be nice to kind of know what my future is past this year here in Carolina. That would make a lot of the other decisions easier.”
Olsen admitted if ESPN were to make him an offer it is something he would have to at least consider.
“Obviously, ESPN, that Monday Night gig is a big deal,” he said. “You don’t just easily dismiss that. But how things play out, my preference would be for things to play out here at Carolina beyond this year. If that’s not the case, then other doors remain open is the best way to put it.”
Olsen is scheduled to count $9.75 million against the 2018 salary cap, so the Panthers could lessen that figure if spread out over several years with an extension.
Olsen said his agent and general manager Marty Hurney “haven’t gotten into anything significant” as far as an extension. But Olsen said he was upfront and honest with Hurney and coach Ron Rivera about the interview with ESPN, making it clear to them his preference was to continue to play even though his long-term goal is to be in sports broadcasting.
“I told them obviously you guys know I love to play, I still feel I can play at a high level,” Olsen said. “I would love to continue to play here past this year if that is in the cards.
“That will be kind of the domino that kind of makes all the rest of the decisions easy. What is my future after this year? After that, everything kind of takes care of itself.”
Olsen missed nine games last season with a broken foot suffered in Week 2. It was the first time since the 2007 season with the Chicago Bears that he missed a game and the first time since his first season with the Panthers in 2011 that he missed a start.
Prior to this past season, Olsen had gone over 1,000 yards receiving three straight years. Seeking to be paid among the league’s top tight ends and wanting to avoid the situation he’s currently in, Olsen sought an extension before the 2017 training camp.
“We tried. We tried.,” Olsen said. “It just didn’t work out.”
Instead, the Panthers added $2 million in incentives to Olsen’s deal if he reached certain numbers in receptions, average yards per catch, receiving yards and postseason honors. Because of the injury, Olsen didn’t come close.
That makes the sense of urgency to get an extension done before the final year of his contract more pressing.
“How it works out, I don’t know,” Olsen said. “It’s not always what you want. It takes two sides to put things together.”