The biggest question surrounding the Carolina Panthers’ tight ends entering training camp isn’t whether Greg Olsen will have another productive season, but whether he’ll be paid more handsomely for doing so.
As the Observer first reported in June, Olsen is looking for a raise that will put him among the league’s highest-paid tight ends after he out-performed just about every tight end in the NFL over the past three or four years.
The Panthers haven’t generally been inclined to start ripping up contracts two years before they expire, although it’s difficult to argue the value Olsen brings to the offense and the locker room.
Olsen, the only tight end in NFL history to post three consecutive, 1,000-yard receiving seasons, doesn’t seem like the type who would hold out, although he hasn’t definitively ruled it out.
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Chris Manhertz is one of two tight ends on the roster who played college basketball. The former Canisius hoopster was claimed off waivers from the Saints last year and caught one pass for 10 yards in limited action. Look for Manhertz’s reps and productivity to increase this season.
To be decided in camp ...
The Panthers had three tight ends on their opening-week roster last season, including Ed Dickson and Scott Simonton. Dickson has averaged only 12 catches in three years in Charlotte, although Olsen’s production doesn’t leave much for the other TEs. If the Panthers keep three tight ends again, Simonton, Manhertz and Dickson would appear to be fighting for the final two spots.
Underdog to watch
Eric Wallace, the former UNC basketball recruit who played Australian Rules Football, was the Cinderella story last year in Spartanburg. Wallace was among the final cuts, the returned to the practice squad in Week 17. Wallace, 28, has the athleticism to succeed but needs to polish his football skills.
Three bold predictions
▪ Olsen will not get a new contract, but will surpass 1,000 receiving yards for the fourth year in a row. The Panthers will sign the then-33-year-old Olsen to a two-year, $25 million extension next March.
▪ Manhertz will make the team as the No. 3 tight end and finish as the Panthers’ second-leading receiver among the tight ends.
▪ Dickson has a history of scoring touchdowns in odd ways, and 2017 will be no exception. Dickson will catch a carom off the helmet of running back Christian McCaffrey and go in for an important score vs. the Saints in Week 3.