Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen Sign One-Day Contracts With Carolina To Retire As Panthers and Thomas Davis' Suit Jacket is the Epitome of Swag
It may be hard to believe if you're around my age since it's all we've ever known as sports fans, but free agency is still a relatively new concept in professional sports. Players in all leagues fought hard for this right through strikes and collective bargaining. Major League Baseball has had free agency since 1976 (s/o Curt Floyd), but unrestricted free agency didn't start in the NBA until 1988 and 1992 in the NFL.
I started this blog with that historical tidbit to talk about one-day contracts. Without free agency, this practice would not be possible! There are countless examples of players (LaDainian Tomlinson, Jerry Rice, John Kuhn, etc.) who ended their playing career in an unfamiliar uniform only to sign a one-day contract with their first or most notable team to "retire" with that franchise.
According to Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News via The Big Lead, the practice started in 1994 with Roger Craig, who signed a one-day contract to "retire" as a 49er. My brain is telling me I've mentioned this in a blog before, but I'm not about to search for 12 hours to possibly find a sentence that'll be read by me and maybe 20 people (even though I love you).
"In a wave of sentimentality, former Pro Bowl running back Roger Craig signed a one-day contract with San Francisco this summer so he could retire from the 49ers. He left the 49ers in free agency in 1991 when he signed with the Raiders, then signed as a free agent with Minnesota in 1992. But Craig wanted to finish up where he started. Don’t look for Joe Montana to be overcome with the same wave of emotion. When he saw himself being phased out of the offense in favor of Steve Young, the NFL’s all-time leading passer asked for a trade and the 49ers accommodated him by sending him to Kansas City in 1993.”If I wanted to retire from the 49ers,” Montana said, “I could have.”
Today, two of the greatest players in the history of the Carolina Panthers, TE Greg Olsen and LB Thomas Davis, signed one-day contracts to "retire as Panthers."
Olsen was drafted 31st overall by the Chicago Bears in 2007, where he played until 2010; his best days came with Carolina from 2011-2019 before spending last season with the Seahawks. Davis was drafted by the Panthers in 2005 and played in Carolina until 2018 before spending the last two seasons with the Chargers and Football Team.
Their former coach, Riverboat Ron Rivera paid respect to the duo on twitter.
I don't have too strong of a take on one-day contracts. I do think they're kind of a joke; it's one of the biggest loopholes in sports like you didn't really retire with that team, but I'm at the end of the day, I'm a sentimental guy, so it's nice to see people reunite with their "true" team. I love happy endings. These are two of the greatest players in this franchise's somewhat brief history; both are three-time Pro Bowlers. Olsen was the first TE in NFL history to record three straight 1,000 yard seasons, and Thomas Davis came back from THREE torn ACLs and had five straight 100+ combined tackle seasons from 2012-2016.
That's all well and good. A tip of the cap to both of these upstanding gentlemen who showed how to carry yourself as a professional on both sides of the field, but what I'm really here to talk about is Thomas Davis' suit jacket. Sure, this man is my 5-8 brethren, so I'm a tad biased, but the dude came out in a custom hybrid suit jacket/jersey that is absolute fire—best of both worlds like Hannah Montana.
Talk about details, the front includes his captain and Walter Payton Man of the Year patches. Came thru drippin! Drip! Drip!
I don't really have much more to say about their retirements than that. I guess the elephant in the room was Cam wasn't brought up much at this ceremony, but I'm not too worried about drama in the Carolina Panthers organization. I care about uniqueness and individuality, and Thomas Davis displayed that in spades with this jacket. If this has happened before, I apologize for my goldfish brain forgetting about you; Thomas Davis is about to set off a revolution unless you technically did first. Assuming nobody else did, I think this is only the beginning of jersey/jackets at ceremonies like this. I don't expect Brady to wear one if he retires as a Patriot in 2034, but still, this is swag personified. I fucking love this jacket and anybody who proudly rocks the 5-8. It may not be actually playing the final down of your career with the team you're retiring with, but it could be the next best thing.