Whoever first said that timing is everything has never been proven wrong.
And the way Greg Olsen sees it, timing may explain why he was able to quickly sign with the Seahawks this offseason, and why his longtime Carolina Panthers teammate, quarterback Cam Newton, remains a free agent.
Olsen was released by the Panthers, who are in rebuilding mode under first-year coach Matt Rhule, on Feb. 3, when restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak had yet to kick in.
That allowed Olsen to make visits to Buffalo, Washington and Seattle and take physicals with each team. And that led to his signing with the Seahawks in late February, not only before travel restrictions but also before hundreds of other players became available when the NFL’s free-agent signing period began March 18.
Newton was not released until March 24, which was not only a week after the free-agent signing period began but also was when the league instituted travel bans.
Newton has battled foot and shoulder injuries the past two seasons, missing all but two games in 2019, and turns 31 next week. While it was reported in late March that he had passed a physical — one that was coordinated by the Panthers and his agents to show he’s healthy — questions about his health undoubtedly are a factor.
“I think the timing of everything going on in the world specifically as it pertains to our country and the NFL, specifically with him coming off the injuries, which is really not an ideal situation,” Olsen said of Newton on Tuesday when he spoke with Seattle media via Zoom.
Olsen said it might have been different for Newton “if he could have been released a lot earlier, you know, kind of like me. I was able to get out in front, come visit Seattle. Maybe Seattle doesn’t sign me if I don’t have a chance to go out there and meet them and then see me and do my physical and say ‘OK, this guy’s fine.’ Getting released after the lockdown was put in place I think really limited his chances with teams.”
Newton’s free agency has led to speculation about where he will end up. Some have wondered if the Seahawks are interested. They are certain to add a third quarterback to go with starter Russell Wilson and recently signed undrafted free agent Anthony Gordon out of Washington State.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider told KJR-AM 950 last week that they will “address the backup quarterback situation.”
But the Seahawks have never spent much on a backup quarterback since Wilson emerged, and they seem unlikely to do so now, with many figuring they could re-sign Geno Smith, who served as the backup last year.
Some might wonder why Smith wouldn’t have already signed if that’s the route the Seahawks are going to take. But Smith didn’t sign last year until May 15, and salary-cap reasons, roster flexibility and/or Smith weighing his options could be factors.
That Jameis Winston just signed to be a backup with New Orleans with a base salary of just $1.1 million has led some to wonder if Newton would accept a similar deal with a team such as the Seahawks.
It’s worth noting that Winston’s deal has a cap number of $2.8 million, according to OvertheCap.com. That probably is more than the Seahawks want to pay a backup, especially when Wilson hasn’t missed a snap since 2017. Smith had a cap number of $710,000 last year.
And at least one report — from The Athletic’s Joe Person — said Newton doesn’t want to be a backup.
Person recently tweeted that there is “no way” Newton goes somewhere as a backup. That appears to have fueled the idea that he could wait until training camps begin to see if a starting spot could become available or an injury makes one available.
Olsen was traded by the Bears to Carolina in July 2011, Newton’s rookie season, and made the Pro Bowl from 2014-16 catching passes from Newton. In one of those seasons, 2015, Newton was the league’s MVP when the Panthers reached the Super Bowl (after beating the Seahawks in the divisional playoffs).
“I’ve been on the record a million times about what Cam has meant for my career and the relationship and the things we’ve been able to accomplish together over the last nine years,” Olsen said.
Olsen said it has been tough to watch Newton deal with an offseason of uncertainty.
“It’s hard for us who care about him, and you have been through so much and known so well, to see him not signed yet,” Olsen said.
“I just hope that as things continue to open up and life sort of starts resembling some normalcy again he can start checking some of those boxes, because he’s too good of a player to not be on a team right now. It’s hard for so many of us that obviously have seen him up close and personal for a long time, it’s kind of hard to swallow.
“But you know we’re kind of in (uncharted) waters right now, kind of weird times, and I think all those factors have played into the current situation that he’s in.”