Colts: Is Mo-Alie Cox part of the future or trade bait?

Colts TE Mo Alie-Cox (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Colts TE Mo Alie-Cox (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Is Colts breakout tight end Mo Alie-Cox part of the team’s future or trade bait?

Remember a month ago when Indianapolis Colts tight end Mo Alie-Cox appeared to have established himself as the team’s top option, both as a blocker and pass catcher, at the position? Well, that narrative, which we were tirelessly trying to speak into existence amid his blazing hot start to the season, has unfortunately turned on its head in light of Trey Burton and Jack Doyle’s return from injury.

Up until Week 3, Alie-Cox was Indy’s leading receiver with 10 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown. That production, of course, came while Burton (calf) was shelved on injured reserve  to open the season and Doyle (knee) was continually limited in practice and was forced to miss one game.

Since then, however, Alie-Cox has tallied just one reception for 13 yards on three targets while playing 48% of the offensive snaps. Head coach Frank Reich assured reporters that the fourth-year pro would continue to have a prominent role in the passing game once Burton and Doyle returned to the field, but that has quickly proven to be a misguided claim.

This would have seemed delusional four weeks ago, but fans in Indianapolis are now fully justified in questioning if Alie-Cox is actually a part of the Colts’ future or just trade bait leading up to the Nov. 3 deadline.

Alie-Cox suffered a knee injury during the Colts’ Week 5 loss to Cleveland and didn’t recover in time to suit up for the following game vs Cincinnati, where Burton and Doyle combined to post seven receptions for 87 yards.

The former college basketball star was unable to practice on Wednesday but returned on a limited basis on Thursday, leaving his status for Sunday’s clash against the Lions up in the air. Tell us, how is he going to reassert himself as a consistent contributor for the rest of the season if he misses another game? You’d be hard-pressed to picture a scenario where he defies those odds given the Colts’ evident infatuation with Burton and Doyle.

As of this writing, Doyle is the only tight end under contract beyond 2020. That means both Burton, who signed a one-year, $910,000 contract in the offseason, and Alie-Cox will come off the books when the season is over.

If we were in GM Chris Ballard’s shoes, we’d look to deal Doyle, who clearly costs the most and has the least upside of the trio, before the deadline and prioritize a new deal for Alie-Cox. With that being said, however, we also have a month’s worth of evidence that suggests the VCU product might not hold a future in Indianapolis.

The way the Colts have (or haven’t) used Alie-Cox recently unfortunately indicates that he might be trade bait, and we have never hoped to be more wrong about anything, because he still ranks as one of Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded players of the season at 91.3.

You simply shouldn’t give up on players who posses as much raw talent as Alie-Cox, but it seems like Indianapolis is prepared to do just that, whether it comes before next Tuesday or after the season.