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Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Carolina position analysis: Tight end

By David Newton

Part 6 of my position-by-position analysis of the Carolina Panthers' roster focuses on an area that needs little improvement.

Next up: Tight End

2013 grade: B-plus. Definitely a strength. Greg Olsen had a career-best and a team-best 73 catches for 816 yards. With Tony Gonzalez retired, maybe Olsen will get more attention in the NFC South.

Under contract (2014 salary-cap number): Olsen ($7,800,000), Brandon Williams ($495,000). Total: ($8,295,0000).

Key free agents: Ben Hartsock, Richie Brockel (RFA).

Good news: As I've said many times, if Olsen didn't play in a division with Jimmy Graham (Saints) and Gonzalez (Atlanta), he would be recognized as one of the top tight ends in the NFC. He was Cam Newton's favorite target this past season, and helped make up for a lack of productivity among wide receivers after Steve Smith.

Bad news: Not a lot. The Panthers could use another blocking tight end to shore up the rushing attack and free up Olsen even more. They could re-sign one or both of their free agents, or look to upgrade. Hartsock would be the most likely choice since he was key in Carolina's jumbo package.

The draft: This might be a position where the Panthers take a chance with a mid- to late-round draft pick. There's a pretty good one a few hours away in North Carolina's Eric Ebron, but he's likely to be gone in the first round.