The Carolina Panthers announced last week that Greg Olsen’s nine-year tenure with the team would be coming to a close this offseason.
In describing who was making the decision for Olsen to leave the team, the Panthers used the phrasing that should be very familiar to all sports fans: a mutual agreement to part ways.
Panthers and Greg Olsen mutually agree to part ways https://t.co/kPyh4lbaqc— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 30, 2020
Such a wording is usually beneficial for both sides. No one is left publicly aggrieved, no one takes any blame if the departure turns out to be a mistake. The Panthers even threw in a quote from Olsen, which he later tweeted out as a statement, in which he said “The team and I are both on the same page that it is best we go in different directions for now."
Now, less than a week later, that departure isn’t looking so mutual.
Greg Olsen says he wanted to stay with Panthers
During a radio interview on Tuesday, Olsen was asked when he made up his mind that he wasn’t going to return to the Panthers next season.
Olsen said that moment was basically when the Panthers told him they weren’t going to want him back.
"It was announced last week that @gregolsen88 & the Panthers were 'mutually parting ways' but was that necessarily true?"— WFNZ-AM/FM (@wfnz) February 4, 2020
"Did the longtime Carolina TE want to stay in the Queen City"?
Olsen with @JoshParcell:
Full chat: https://t.co/grPZ7pntB5 pic.twitter.com/ReHLkk4dk5
“To be clear, I told them all along that if they wanted me back, obviously I would have been back,” Olsen said. “So the “mutual parting” might have been a little bit overblown. The reality was they weren’t going to bring me back at my current contract and my age, the direction of the team. I understood it, but I didn’t force my way out of here.”
Olsen pointed to the firing of head coach Ron Rivera, who coached the Panthers during Olsen’s entire time in Carolina, and the changing leadership of the team as reasons for why he was no longer needed.
“That wasn’t me deciding I was gone, that was me reading the tea leaves through some stuff internally that was going on,” Olsen said. “I’ve been around long enough to see the writing on the wall. That was more along the lines of Ron’s gone, all of the assistants are gone, it’s kind of a new regime, new transition. Sometimes the old, expensive guys, regardless of their careers, regardless of their abilities, they get the first axe, so to speak. That’s kind of how that all went.”
All of that still makes plenty of sense for the Panthers, who finished the season last in the NFC South at 5-11 and could have a tough decision on their hands about Cam Newton and the future of their quarterback position.
Barring a miraculous recovery from Newton and an encouraging start to new head coach Matt Rhule’s NFL career, the team probably isn’t going to need Olsen around next season when it has guys like the much younger and cheaper Ian Thomas. It’s just silly to cut Olsen loose then push him to act like it was definitely what he wanted.
As for Olsen, he still has plenty of options on and off the field. He already has a standing offer for a television analyst spot with Fox if he opts to retire at age 34, and there are plenty of teams who could still use a veteran tight end who posted 597 receiving yards last year.
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