Around this time of year, the most popular and common discussion among NFL fans is about potential offseason moves. There has been plenty of discussion among Colts fans about moves the team should and shouldn't make, and it provides a nice talking point, if nothing else.
Recently, Aaron Schatz and Scott Kacsmar wrote a piece for ESPN detailing one bold move that each AFC and NFC team should make this offseason, using Football Outsiders' numbers and data (such as DVOA). For the Indianapolis Colts, the suggested bold move is one that has been the point of as much debate as any issue for the team: they suggest the Colts re-sign tight end Dwayne Allen and let tight end Coby Fleener walk.
The piece operates under the assumption that the team can only sign one of them, and their opinion is that it should be Allen. Here's part of what they wrote:
The knee-jerk answer is Fleener, who always seems on the verge of breaking out as a major receiving target. But it is certainly telling that this has yet to happen after four years in the league. Meanwhile, Allen is widely regarded as the more complete tight end. He won't stretch the seam quite like Fleener or challenge DBs with his height -- Allen is 6-foot-3, Fleener 6-foot-6 -- but Allen is a better blocker and shows surer hands on short routes.
During the past two seasons, Allen and Fleener have had similar numbers in FO's advanced stats even though Fleener gets more pass targets. Two years ago, they were both well above average. Last season, because of the troubles the Colts had at quarterback, they were both well below average. Meanwhile, full offensive numbers show that the Colts have struggled more when Allen has missed games with injuries. (The numbers are worse when Allen plays limited snaps than when he misses the whole game, but that's likely just small sample-size variation.)
The Colts With and Without Dwayne Allen
All Games A.Luck as QB DVOA Games DVOA Games Allen out -6.7% 7 0.9% 5 Allen plays < 60% of snaps -36.0% 8 -28.6% 6 Allen plays > 60% of snaps 2.6% 20 7.0% 15
Yes, Fleener is dangerous up the seam, but he's not going to be a leading receiver when the offense is built around T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett. The Colts will have a better and more balanced offense with Allen as the lone starting tight end.
I'm not sure how bold the move actually is, but then again it has been a point of so much discussion among Colts fans that it makes sense to include it in that category. Basically, it seems like the main premise of their argument for Allen is that he has the bigger impact on the offense. Allen can help the team as a receiver and as a blocker, and while Fleener is the better of the two options when it comes to receiving, the Colts don't need that as much as they need Allen's skill-set because they have receiving options like T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett already. That makes perfect sense and is a good, logical argument in favor of Allen.
With that said, there is an argument to be made for either side. Fleener hasn't missed a game since his rookie season and has recorded 183 receptions for 2,154 yards and 17 touchdowns in his career, averaging 11.8 yards per catch. He has routinely been among the Colts' top receiving targets and, while he hasn't been great, he has been an above-average receiving tight end. For Allen, the argument is that he's the more well-rounded of the two and, when healthy, the better overall player. In 2012, his rookie season and the only year in which he played in every game, he was a huge factor in the offense, and he has continued to be a good player since then.
Regardless of what the Colts do, there will be those that agree and those that disagree with the move they make at tight end. There hasn't been any sort of consensus reached yet and I don't expect there to be. Schatz and Kacsmar entered the discussion with a pro-Allen vote, and their explanation serves to further the argument because of their logical conclusion that the Colts need Allen more than they need Fleener. There are other factors in play, but that much at least makes perfect sense.