Colts Could Have Trouble Re-Signing Tight End Tandem
According to Kevin Bowen of Colts.com, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has re-signing both of the team’s young tight ends in Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener on his to-do list:
Of course, wanting to do something is one thing, but doing it is another thing entirely. Young and talented tight ends in today’s NFL are starting to be paid a premium. Look no further than former Miami Dolphins tight end Charles Clay‘s recent new contract with the Buffalo Bills:
While Clay’s contract in the 1st two years with $11.5M was obviously structured so that the Miami Dolphins wouldn’t match his contract, he’s still averaging $7.6M per year over the life of the deal. Clay’s a nice young tight end, but he’s coming off a season in which he caught 58 receptions for 605 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns, so he’s not on an elite level of tight ends like Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, or even Julius Thomas despite being seemingly paid like it.
Dec 7, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins tight end Charles Clay (42) runs against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half at Sun Life Stadium. Ravens won 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
If Clay is getting that type of contract now, it’s scary to think of the possible contracts that each of Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen could command in another season when they’re rookie contracts expire, given that they’re also both two of the top young tight ends in football.
Fleener is coming off a season in which he caught 51 receptions for 774 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns, while Allen caught 29 receptions for 395 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns.
Based on Clay’s new contract, not only is it unclear if the Colts can afford to pay two tight ends a combined $15.2M annually given the constraints of the salary cap, but one could make a strong argument of whether it’s a prudent football decision entirely to tie that much cap space into the tight end position. The team still has to lock up Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, and Anthony Castonzo to lucrative long-term contracts as mentioned, and it may be unwise to devote that much cap space into one position given the needs of the entire roster.
If push comes to shove, could one of Allen/Fleener + Jack Doyle suffice?
Could the team draft another young tight end as one of Allen or Fleener’s replacement in the early rounds of an upcoming draft to save the team an additional $7.2M annually in cap space?
It seems like signing one of the Colts young tight ends is a smart football decision, but perhaps not both. Allen is widely seen as the more complete overall player between the two given his ability to both catch and block at a high level, but given his recent injury history (he’s missed 18 regular season games over the past two seasons), it may not be the slam dunk football decision it once was.
It could eventually be a tough decision that’s left up to General Manager Ryan Grigson and his staff to properly determine which one of Fleener and Allen to keep. Fortunately, however, the Colts will have their talented tight end duo for at least one more season and then what happens is well…anybody’s guess.
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