Former All-Pro return man Gunner Olszewski is headed for the open market. Mike Reiss of ESPN has reported that the New England Patriots will decline to use a restricted free agency tender on Olszewski, making him an unrestricted free agent. Though he could still end up back in Foxborough next season, Olszewski now loses his restricted free agency status, opening him up to the highest bidder on the open market.
Olszewski, 25, entered the NFL in 2019 as an undrafted free agent signing by the Patriots. The former Bemidji State cornerback made a position switch once he arrived, working with the wide receivers and returning punts in his first training camp. He would eventually become an All-Pro returner after averaging 17.3 yards per punt return in 2020.
Though Olszewski served as New England’s primary kick and punt returner in 2021, he saw his role on offense decrease, playing just 6% of New England’s offensive snaps. This was a significant decrease from the 13% that he played in each of his first two years on New England’s active roster. With just nine total receptions to his name, it’s safe to say that his value as a player comes in his return capabilities.
The Patriots had three different options to tender Olszewski. They could have either used the first-round level at a cost of $5.562 million or second-round level at a cost of $3.986 million, or gone with the original round tender which would have given them the right of first refusal. If a team did not sign Olszewski to an offer sheet, it would have cost New England $2.433 million.
Evidently New England didn’t believe that Olszewski was worthy of an investment of that magnitude, so he will be free to sign with anyone once the new league year begins on March 16, at 4:00pm.