The start of the new NFL league year is quickly approaching, and with it veteran free agency. The Colts are working on trying to re-sign some of their own before free agency starts, and one of the biggest decisions they will have to make is at the tight end position.
Both Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen are set to become free agents, and ideally the team would like to be able to retain both of them. As general manager Ryan Grigson noted yesterday, however, it's going to be "tough" for the Colts to do that - and it would probably mean that other players they wanted to re-sign didn't work out. In other words, it appears that the team will have to decide between the two.
A recent report from CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora could give us a hint as to where the Colts are wanting to go, as La Canfora reports that the Colts haven't really made progress on a new contract with Coby Fleener.
The Colts are another team trying to gauge the market for two players at the same position, with their tight ends, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, both set to hit the open market. Sources said there has been no real progress made with Fleener and while he has better numbers, Allen is a more complete player able to block and help in the run game, as well as someone who offers some explosion himself.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that deadlines spur action and that contract negotiations could look completely different by the time free agency is set to begin. So the Colts not being close to a new deal with Fleener at this point doesn't mean much, but it does give the indication that the two sides are far away on the price - which could mean that Allen is the one who sticks around. La Canfora mentions that "the Colts know they must become a more physical and multi-pronged team" and that he wouldn't be shocked if they choose Allen over Fleener.
Spotrac projected Fleener's next contract using market value and comparing him to similar players and situations, projecting a four-year, $24 million deal for the tight end, averaging $6 million per year. That seems like a fair value for the tight end, but it's possible that Allen will come cheaper based on the nature of today's NFL (the receiving tight end could be more coveted than a balanced one). Either way, it sounds like the Colts are further away in talks with Fleener, though that could change.
Fleener has history with quarterback Andrew Luck, as the two played together at Stanford and have played their first four years in the NFL together. During that time, Fleener has played in 60 games (not missing a game since his rookie season) and has recorded 183 receptions for 2,154 yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 11.8 yards per reception. Fleener tops Allen in every receiving category when it comes to numbers, and he is a bigger threat in the passing game as well. In each of the past three years, Fleener has been one of the Colts' top receiving threats.
Allen, however, is the better overall and more complete tight end. He has played in 43 games and, while his numbers aren't as good as Fleener's, he makes up for it with his blocking. Allen has caught 91 passes for 1,045 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 11.5 yards per catch. He wasn't used much in the passing game last year as the Colts made him essentially an extra offensive lineman, but that blocking ability is what sets him apart and makes him an all-around, versatile threat. The one question mark with Allen is durability, as he missed almost all of the 2013 season and has missed time in each of the past two seasons with various injuries as well.