At some point or another, Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen will be a television analyst — and probably a good one. Olsen tried his hand at broadcasting during Week 11 of last season when he joined Fox for a one-off gig calling a Vikings-Rams game, then he appeared on ESPN as a studio analyst last month in the hours leading up to the Super Bowl.
Now, according to multiple reports, the 33-year-old Olsen is auditioning for a more permanent role at the Worldwide Leader. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reported Friday that Olsen would try out for ESPN’s Monday Night Football vacancy, but would also consider returning to the NFL next season if he failed to land a good broadcasting gig. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport confirmed that Olsen would audition at ESPN, but said the veteran tight end fully plans to play in 2018.
#Panthers TE Greg Olsen is auditioning for and ESPN broadcast job today, as @AndrewMarchand said… but sources say he has committed to play for Carolina for 2018 and beyond. This is about life after football, not next year.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 16, 2018
ESPN, of course, is seeking a replacement for Jon Gruden in its Monday Night Football booth. With Peyton Manning reportedly disinterested, the network has a suite of potential candidates, including internal options Matt Hasselbeck, Randy Moss, and Louis Riddick, and external choices such as NFL Network’s Kurt Warner.
Per Marchand, Fox is also interested in bringing aboard Olsen to call its new Thursday Night Football package.
Presumably, a role on either MNF or TNF would require the tight end to retire from the NFL immediately.
In recent months, networks have seemingly homed in on the next generation of former-player NFL broadcasters. In addition to Manning and Olsen, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten has reportedly drawn interest from Fox, while just-retired offensive tackle Joe Thomas has reportedly auditioned with both Fox and ESPN.
All of these aspiring broadcasters likely owe some gratitude to Tony Romo, who took over on CBS’ top broadcast team last fall and immediately received high marks, demonstrating that a player can step off the field and into the broadcast booth and find quick success. Networks have always chased big names fresh out of retirement, but you get the sense this offseason that both Fox and ESPN specifically crave a young analyst who knows the modern NFL and has cachet with fans of all ages.
Alas, ESPN and Fox have only two high-profile vacancies between them, meaning some of these guys will wind up without plum jobs. At least Olsen (like Witten) has the fallback of being a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end.