The 26 year old tight end is coming off a career season for the Colts in which he caught 59 receptions for 584 receiving yards and 5 touchdown receptions.
Having originally been claimed by the Colts off of waivers from the Tennessee Titans in 2013, Doyle immediately became a key special teams contributor for Indianapolis.
However, he continued to improve and simply ‘did his job’, and this past season he flourished as the Colts ‘2nd tight end’ in the offense–replacing departed tight end Coby Fleener‘s role.
While starter Dwayne Allen received a lucrative multi-year contract extension last offseason, it was Doyle who was actually the Colts most consistent tight end this past season.
He developed key rapport with star quarterback Andrew Luck by serving as a reliable sure-handed safety valve over the middle of the field–having the highest catch rate among all the NFL’s wide receivers and tight ends this past season.
The 6’6″, 267 pound tight end is beloved in the locker room by players and coaches alike, and it would be a big loss for the Colts both on the field and chemistry-wise–having already lost eccentric All-Pro punter Pat McAfee earlier this offseason to retirement.
That being said, Doyle is arguably the second best tight end on this year’s free agent market, only to the New England Patriots Martellus Bennett.
The Colts already have Allen at a $5.937M cap hit for 2017, and it may not make sense to dish out more lucrative dollars to their second tight end–especially given the needs on defense.
It’s worth noting though that the Colts do use an abundance of two tight end sets, and Luck has always been accustomed to having a pair of talented tight ends at his disposal ever since his Stanford days.
If push comes to shove, ideally the Colts would keep Doyle over Allen in a perfect world, but with $3M in dead money by releasing the latter, it may not actually be a realistic possibility.
There’s no question that the Colts would really like to bring back Doyle. After all, the team reportedly made recent attempts to re-sign him, but ultimately failed.
However, the Colts could presumably want him at a deal closer to the $4-5M annual per year range, as opposed to the $6-7M he could command on the open market from a tight end needy team would be my calculated guess.
It makes sense that Doyle would want to at least test his value because there may be a team that’s willing to give more than the Colts monetary wise, as well as in the playing time department, given that Indianapolis already has Allen and so many other roster needs.
Worst case, he could always come back to the Colts should his market not materialize as originally hoped. However, the one thing that Doyle could be lacking in his next NFL home is Luck, and that’s something that’s not easily replaced.
Not to mention, the local ‘hometown hero’ already has a clear comfort zone in Indianapolis, which could certainly work in the Colts favor if things are close to being equal in any other offer.
Simply put, it appears that the Colts clearly want to re-sign Doyle, it’s just a matter of whether there can be a ‘meeting of the minds’ in regards to his fair market value.