As the Bears scrutinize their offense and contemplate its future, the club needs to figure out how they view tight end Greg Olsen.
He enters the final year of his contract, which calls for him to make a modest $900,000, and Olsen's agent Drew Rosenhaus will surely push for a lucrative extension. The Bears have traditionally been proactive under general manager Jerry Angelo, but they may be more guarded this offseason and, perhaps, in the future.
The first task, though, is for offensive coordinator Mike Martz to weigh in on Olsen's role. Toward the end of the season, Martz was very complimentary of Olsen.
"Greg's numbers in the passing game are not what they could and probably should be for his abilities, but what we've done with him is he lines up at the line of scrimmage, and he's the point of attack," Martz said. ''But he's also lined up at fullback and has been a lead blocker. We line him up at wide receiver. He does so many things for us, and just by being able to do that flexibility, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense, though his numbers wouldn't indicate that.''
That sounds good.
But the reality is, Olsen's numbers dipped dramatically from 2009 to 2010. He had fewer catches (60 to 41), receiving yards (612 to 404) and receiving touchdowns (eight to five).
If Martz wants to take advantage of Olsen's versatility, as he suggested, then the Bears should consider a long-term deal to keep him around. But if he doesn't, then the Bears should shop him and trade him.
The New England Patriots were the team most interested last offseason, but they invested two draft picks at the position, and both players (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez) produced as rookies.
The other option for the Bears would be to have Olsen play out the final year of his rookie year then have the flexibility to use a tag on him if he has a monster 2011 season. But, again, Rosenhaus is an aggressive agent, who isn't afraid to use any tactic to get his client's paid.
Besides, Rosenhaus has had some success at that position: he negotiated a six-year, $36.1 million contract for Kellen Winslow Jr. with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The deal included $20.1 million in guarantees.
What helps the Bears, though, is the presence of Kellen Davis, who also enters the final year of his rookie deal. Davis has had flashes of brilliance, and one NFC North personnel executive said he has the potential to be like Visanthe Shiancoe, a player who emerges from the shadow of a high draft pick.