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Greg Olsen's changing role and the TE trade market

I still hold out some hope that the St. Louis Rams will trade for one of the two tight ends thought to be on the trade market, Greg Olsen and Tony Scheffler. To me, that's an essential ingredient in Pat Shurmur's offense.

Scheffler, who was tendered at the second round level, is sitting out of the Broncos' offseason conditioning work, a situation not uncommon for a RFA in his situation (see Atogwe, Oshiomogho). Most believe he'll still be traded, and the market is likely to heat up again as the draft nears and teams get a better handle on their draft boards with workouts, Pro Days and visits. 

Olsen's name last burned up the rumor wires last week, though there was no actual nugget of possibility beyond the speculation that he wouldn't fit into Mad Mike's offense. Today, Bears head coach Lovie Smith walked the trade talk back a little bit, claiming Olsen did indeed have a role with Bears, albeit one that might change a little bit. Here's Lovie:

There’s a reason we brought in another tight end [in free agent Brandon Manumaleuna]. If tight end wasn’t important in our offense, we had three we love and we brought in another? That doesn’t add up.

They all have a strength: Greg as a catcher, Dez Clark doing both, Kellen Davis as an inline blocker and Brandon can play in the backfield, as an inline tight end, a lot of different spots.

As for Olsen's evolving role in the tight end four-way...

H-back is probably what Greg has been best suited for up to this point. Right now that’s been more Greg’s role. We haven’t talked a lot about him being an inline tight end. That’s the next step we have to take with Greg is getting him more comfortable to play inline tight end.

In order for that to work, teams have to respect Greg as an inline tight end. A lot of times last year teams kept their nickel group out there with Greg, and you don’t want that. You want to get him matched up on a safety or a linebacker.

Olsen was the top receiver - 60 catches, 100+ targets, 612 yards and 8 TDs - in the Bears woeful passing offense. 

Make teams respect Olsen more as a blocker in order to make him a more effective receiver. Makes sense, but this sounds like it turning into a situation where Olsen isn't happy or best suited to his role, which prompted the trade talk in the first place. Though last week, that trade talk took on another dimension when ESPN's KC Joyner weighed in on Olsen's productivity, noting that he had a yards-per-attempt average (5.9) that was the fourth worst among TEs...putting him in Randy McMichael territory.

Olsen was the top receiver - 60 catches, 100+ targets, 612 yards and 8 TDs - in the Bears woeful passing offense, and I asked Joyner if part of the problem might have been Olsen's status as the lone receiving threat. His response did indeed note that Olsen's role could have been part of the issue, but more because Olsen was being used as a WR when he's a TE. Here's his response:

I haven't run the full numbers yet, but if I had to guess, it would be that Chicago tried to use him too much as a flex TE. Very few flex TEs ever post quality numbers in that role for the simple reason that if they were top-notch WRs, they wouldn't be TEs. There are numerous instances where this has proven to be the case on other teams (Clark in Indy being maybe the best), so the solution could be to move Olsen inside and see how well he produces there.

Based on Smith's quotes above, it sounds like they might be following that course of action. We'll see what happens. Olsen's expected role and how well that goes will go along way to determining how seriously the Bears entertaining trade offers. Thanks to KC Joyner for the feedback...and be sure to check out his site, and I highly recommend his book, available there.