Was getting Greg Olsen the best trade in Panthers history?

Grant Halverson

Always happy to trade, Marty Hurney left one of his best deals for last.

It's too easy to look at draft time in Carolina with some ugliness. Brash trades that resulted in Jeff Otah, Everette Brown, and Armanti Edwards all ended in disaster -- but it's important to remember some of the better moves Marty Hurney made as general manager. He shrewdly moved back in the first round to get Jon Beason and Ryan Kalil, got a productive strong safety in Chris Harris for next-to-nothing, and in perhaps his best move, acquired Greg Olsen for a third-round pick. Now on pace to break records, we look at the Olsen deal, two years removed from the trade.

Preying on Chicago's myopia, Hurney landed the productive pass catching receiver for a mid-round pick. The 26-year-old tight end didn't fit Mike Martz's offense, and the grizzled offensive coordinator wanted someone as an in-line blocker, rather than a pass catcher. The problem was Martz and the Bears completely misjudged trends in the NFL. They believed the TE position was being de-emphasized, and that flurry of activity to get an elite one was misguided. Two years later some of the most productive pass catchers in the league come from the tight end spot, with New England, New Orleans, and Dallas all proving that the position is vital.

In 2012 there were nine tight ends who had over 700 yards receiving. Greg Olsen was the fourth.

Carolina has enjoyed the best production from their tight end position since Wesley Walls in the mid-late 90's. Moreover, Olsen's effect on the organization is clear: a professional off the field, a family man who loves the area, and an excellent teammate -- he's already lifted himself into the annals of team greatness, rivaling the best to play the position in Charlotte.

Name From To G GS Rec Yds TD
Wesley Walls 1996 2002 98 96 324 3909 44
Kris Mangum 1997 2006 126 61 151 1424 9
Greg Olsen 2011 2012 32 29 114 1383 10

Olsen could become the second all-time tight end in the first week of 2013, and then begin to chip away at Wesley Walls's team records. When you compare the two, it's odd to see how similar they are in production. Assuming the same number of games started, here's how Olsen projects (assuming he keeps playing at the same level).

Greg Olsen (96 games started): 377 receptions, 4,578 yards, 33 touchdowns

Assume there's a little age and attrition (keeping in mind he'll still be just 33-years-old), and you have him on pace to break the team tight end records easily. He's lagging slightly behind in touchdowns, but these numbers should increase as Cam Newton matures and operates better in the red zone.

Hurney deserves the effusive praise he received for landing two pro bowlers in 2007, but the Greg Olsen trade could be the best of his tenure. It's easier to find excellent players in the first and second round, it's harder to have the vision to turn a third round pick into a player who could be the greatest of all time at a team's position. Furthermore, he had the foresight to believe enough in Olsen to have him sign an extension quickly, and lock him up long term. Sure, chide a lot of Marty's contracts -- but this one was savvy. Two years removed it's impossible to imagine Carolina securing an elite tight end's services for 5 years, $22.8 million. This is the best trade the team has ever made, and Cam Newton is reaping the benefits.

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