In January, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz lamented tight end Greg Olsen's statistics in the passing game "are not what they could, and probably should be."
Last week, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo suggested Olsen will have a "more prominent" role in Martz's offense next season.
"I thought he did a lot of good things, last year. But I think you'll see a lot more things, more consistently, because of the familiarity that our coaches have with him," Angelo said.
Angelo noted how many wondered about Olsen's role in Martz's offense, which previously hadn't highlighted a tight end. While his numbers dropped from 2009, Olsen came up with big plays and stretched opposing defenses.
"We felt good, because of the fact that we know the person, we know how important football is [to him], and he's got talent, and any good coach or system I've been around always finds a way to accentuate to the best players, and I felt we did that," Angelo said. "I expect him to make a big jump as well, next year. No reason to believe he won't."
Both he and Bears coach Lovie Smith said Olsen improved as a blocker in 2010. But Smith said there "only so many balls," with other talented skill players like running back Matt Forte and receivers Johnny Knox and Devin Hester.
But that's not all; Smith also mentioned backup tight end Kellen Davis.
"[Olsen] was just a great team player in his role, and just like I said with other guys, we're going to try to find ways to keep them all involved. I was pleased with what Kellen Davis was able to do," Smith said. "You could make a case for Kellen getting more plays, being more involved also. He's everything you're looking for in a tight end. We just have to keep the progress going. The second year in the system, we know the guys a lot better."
It will be interesting to see what the Bears do with Olsen. He enters the final year of his rookie deal, which is set to pay him a base salary of $900,000, about $500,000 less than Brandon Manumaleuna, a blocking tight end signed last offseason.
Smith, though, shed some light on what a tight end will not do in the Bears offense.
"I guess you look at the numbers and they want the tight end to catch 100 balls," Smith said of the team's offense under Martz. "We have too many options on the offensive sides of the ball for our tight ends to have those kinds of numbers. But you can still be a big part of the offense, which Greg and Kellen are."
Carrying both Davis and Olsen in 2011 isn't an issue. But, the team will likely have to make some hard choices sooner than later. The Bears have invested heavily in quarterback Jay Cutler and Hester, and Olsen and Forte are entering the final year of their respective deals.
Without an extension, if he makes that "big jump" in 2011, than Olsen's price tag will be even higher next offseason. The Bears, of course, could franchise him, if they can't agree to a long-term deal; Marcedes Lewis of the Jacksonville Jaguars signed his franchise tender that was worth $7.3 million earlier this month.