The Carolina Panthers’ first big move of the offseason was to take care of one of their best players.
The Panthers signed Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen to a three-year contract extension, locking up a player who has rewritten the franchise’s receiving records among tight ends the last two seasons.
Drew Rosenhaus, Olsen’s agent, said the extension is worth $22.5 million and includes a $12 million signing bonus.
Olsen, who turns 30 next week, was entering the final year of his contract, which now runs through the 2018 season. The $7.5 million average in new money puts Olsen among the highest-paid tight ends in the league.
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Olsen, who came to Carolina in 2011 in a trade with Chicago, is coming off the two most productive seasons by a Panthers’ tight end.
He went to his first Pro Bowl in January after finishing third in the league among tight ends with 84 receptions. His 1,008 receiving yards were second at the position.
Olsen said the negotiations with the Panthers progressed quickly, and the two sides were able to get a deal done in a week.
“We made it clear to them I wanted to finish my career here and wouldn’t want to play anywhere else, and they kind of echoed that,” Olsen told the Observer in a phone interview.
Olsen mentioned the assistance Panthers owner Jerry Richardson provided when Olsen and his wife, Kara, were preparing for the birth of their son. TJ Olsen was born with a heart defect in 2012 and has undergone four heart surgeries.
Olsen, a first-round pick of the Bears in 2007, has been a durable player. His streak of 126 consecutive games played is the second-longest active streak among tight ends.
“We are very pleased and excited to have Greg on board for the next four years,” Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said. “He is a professional in every sense of the word. Greg’s leadership and work ethic is a great example for our young guys.”
Olsen said he doesn’t view the extension as a “retirement contract.”
“I still feel like I can play at a high level for a long time,” Olsen said.
Olsen said he believes the Panthers have the pieces in place for a long run of success, mentioning the team’s blend of young and veteran players.
“If you look at the young talent we have on our roster, and sprinkling in some of the older guys lke (Ryan) Kalil, T.D. (Thomas Davis) and myself, who are still playing at a high level. You mix those two things together and it’s a recipe for sustained success,” Olsen said. “I think that’s what the team’s going for and that’s what we’ve done the last couple of years.”
Olsen is one of two Panthers tight ends who have had contract talks with the front office. Ed Dickson, who had a strong finish to his first season in Carolina, will become an unrestricted free agent next week.
Olsen said he’s seen Dickson a couple of times during the offseason, and would like to play with him again.
“Ed became a big part of us as the year went on,” Olsen said. “I’m sure the team and his agent have spoken.”
As he prepared to fly to New York on Thursday night for a birthday trip with his wife, Olsen said he was glad to have his own contract wrapped up. With a couple of Broadway shows and nice dinners on the agenda, Olsen now has even more reason to celebrate.
“To get it done this early, even before free agency, there’s no issues,” he said. “I just can’t express how thankful and how fortunate we feel to be in this position.”
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