‘Mr. Reliable’ Greg Olsen’s playing days with Panthers over after 9 seasons

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Greg Olsen’s playing days with the Carolina Panthers are over.

The Panthers have mutually agreed to part ways with the star tight end, the team announced Thursday afternoon.

The 34-year-old tight end announced on Twitter Thursday that he'll be leaving the team, calling it a mutual decision that followed a meeting with general manager Marty Hurney.

Olsen has one year remaining on his contract and is due to cost $11.675 million against the salary cap in 2020. If the Panthers release him, they would be on the hook for $3.7 million in dead cap money. If he retires, the team could recoup that money.

The 13-year veteran ranks fifth among tight ends in receptions (718) and yards receiving (8,444). He had 6,463 yards receiving and caught 524 passes in nine years with Carolina, the most by any Panthers tight end.

“Today, I had the opportunity to sit down with (general manager) Marty Hurney and have a great conversation regarding my future with the organization. The team and I are both on the same page, that it is best we go in different directions for now,” Olsen said in a Panthers news release. “On the field, I will always cherish the nine seasons we shared together. The wins, the losses, standing at midfield holding the Halas Trophy as NFC champs. The reality of going to the Super Bowl was beyond words, as was the disappointment of falling short.”

Olsen has options, Channel 9 sports director Phil Orban said in a tweet. “He has the broadcast deal on the table from Fox, and I’m told multiple teams have expressed interest dating back as far as last season.”

“I still have the love of football in my heart and will explore all career opportunities presented to me,” Olsen said.

The 34-year-old stands as the franchise’s all-time leading tight end in terms of receiving yards (6,463), receptions (524) and 100-yard receiving games (10).

“I wish him well in his future ventures,” a Panthers fan said Thursday. “Just appreciate everything he’s done for the city. (I’m) just really thankful for everything he’s been doing for Charlotte.”

Olsen’s departure further indicates the team is in rebuilding mode under new coach Matt Rhule.

Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly announced his retirement earlier this month. The team also could be making a move for a quarterback. Carolina can save $19 million under the salary cap by trading or releasing veteran Cam Newton this offseason.

Olsen was a popular figure in the community. He was twice named a finalist for Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.

He ranks second among franchise tight ends in receiving touchdowns (39) behind Wesley Walls (44) and third all-time in receiving yards and receptions behind Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad.




Olsen has been a consistent all-around good guy for the community and the team.

He embraced his teammates last month after leaving the field for the last time as a Panther.

“I wanted to make sure that if that was my last time, I told the people that I needed to how much they meant on my career and how much I enjoyed playing with these guys and playing with these coaches,” Olsen said at the time.

Olsen and his wife established the HEARTest Yard Program to provide services and support for families facing similar challenges. Their son was born with a severe congenital heart defect.

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The Chicago Bears selected him in the first round of the 2007 draft and he was with the team for four seasons at the beginning of his career.

Olsen was traded to Carolina for a third-round pick ahead of the 2011 season.

He spent the next nine seasons with the Panthers, playing in every game from 2011-16 and was a go-to target for Newton.

Olsen became known as “Mr. Reliable” in the locker room and was the first tight end in NFL history to record three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (2014-16) and he was voted to three Pro Bowls.

“A leader, great teammate, unbelievable family man and true professional,” Panthers owner David Tepper said in a statement. “Greg brought passion and an intense, detailed work ethic to the stadium every day.”

Olsen missed just two games during the first 10 years of his career and suffered foot injuries in 2017 and 2018.

He played 14 games in 2019 and had 52 receptions for 597 yards and two touchdowns.

Hurney added: “Greg’s meant so much to this organization and we have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He earned a reputation as one of the best tight ends in the league and served as a great leader and team captain. As special as he was for us on the field, his impact on the community is just as impressive. We are proud that he wore a Panthers uniform.”

Ian Thomas is the team’s second-string tight end, but he rarely played last season.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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