Skip to main content

Goodbye, Greg: Bears ship Olsen to Panthers in TE overhaul

The Chicago Bears were a busy bunch Thursday.

First, they gave themselves a makeover at tight end, with NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reporting that Greg Olsen was shipped to the Carolina Panthers, a deal the teams later confirmed.

They also lured punter Adam Podlesh from the Jacksonville Jaguars with a five-year contract. Even so, there's still plenty of work to do.

Veteran center Olin Kreutz remained unsigned. The same goes for defensive tackle Anthony Adams and linebacker Nick Roach, and with questions on offense and defense, it would be a stretch to say the picture is in focus.

It's a little less blurry, though.

Trading Olsen to the Panthers for an undisclosed 2012 draft pick capped a wild day in which the Bears gave themselves a completely different look at that position, and it might have cleared the way for them to go after a big wide receiver such as Roy Williams.

The Bears could use some size to go with Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett and Devin Hester, particularly now that Olsen is gone. The 6-foot-3 Williams, who was released by the Dallas Cowboys, fits that description.

Williams also flourished in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system in Detroit, finishing with 1,310 receiving yards in 2006, and has strong ties to Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake from their days at Texas. Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli also was the Lions' head coach when Williams was with them.

As for Olsen, he had been rumored to be available in the past because of the perception that pass-catching tight ends don't fit in Martz's scheme. Last season, Olsen had his lowest totals in receptions (41) and yards (404) since he was a rookie in 2007, but he tied for the team lead with five touchdown catches.

The trade came on the same day that NFL Network insider Michael Lombardi reported that the Bears agreed to a contract with former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Matt Spaeth. He would replace Brandon Manumaleuna, who was released after he failed his physical.

Manumaleuna played for Martz with the St. Louis Rams and signed a five-year deal last summer with the Bears, but the move didn't really work out. A knee problem limited him early on, and his weight was an issue.

The 6-foot-7, 270-pound Spaeth is cut from a similar mold as Manumaleuna. He's known more for his blocking, an area where the Bears could use help.

Spaeth has never caught more than 17 passes in a season and had nine receptions for 80 yards in 14 games last year, his fourth with the Steelers. His agent, Neil Cornrich, didn't return messages seeking comment.

Podlesh, meanwhile, became one of the highest-paid punters. Agent Richard Rosa wouldn't reveal the financial terms but said the deal puts him in the top five at his position.

Podlesh, who turns 28 next month, spent four years in Jacksonville and will replace Brad Maynard, whose contract expired after a 10-year run in Chicago. Podlesh was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in his salivary gland in 2009 but was a Pro Bowl alternate last season, averaging 43.8 yards per punt and landing 26 (45.6 percent) inside the 20-yard line.

Rosa said Chicago was "an easy sell," and he praised special teams coordinator Dave Toub and special teams assistant Kevin O'Dea.

"The opportunity to play for a storied franchise, their commitment to special teams -- that was huge for him," Rosa said of Podlesh. "The special teams coaches, they did a great job talking him through it, what their game plan is and how they see him progressing as a player through the five years. It really set the tone for him. It really made it an easy decision for him because of that level of commitment. He's very excited."

Veteran free agents can sign Friday and participate in team meetings, but they can't practice until Aug. 4. The Bears open camp in Bourbonnais, Ill., on Friday and start practicing on Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.