Before many of you jump on me, I believe that Dwayne Allen is a talented player who has not been used enough in the past 2 years. With that being said, he should not be paid like a top 10 tight end. Even if you believe that Allen can become a top 10 tight end, which is true, you don't pay him like one after 3 years of little activity. If you pay players only based on what they can become, then you're not negotiating properly.
In 2015, Allen played in 13 games and played in approximately 55.5% of the snaps. He amassed 109 receiving yards on 16 catches and had 1 touchdown. His effectiveness as a blocker gets mixed reviews. Pro Football Focus rated him as one of the worst run blockers in the NFL last season. In my opinion and in the opinion of other Colts writers, he is an average to above average blocking tight end.
What was the market value of tight ends in 2016? Zach Ertz just received a 5 year, 42.5M with 49% being guaranteed. That contract was considered an overpayment, but Ertz broke 850 receiving yards in 2015, is considered a good blocker and played the majority of snaps on the Eagles offense. Ertz also has over 2000 receiving yards through the first 3 years of his career. Travis Kelce, one of the top 4 tight ends in the NFL, signed a 5 year 46M deal with 43% guaranteed. With Kelce eclipsing 850 yards in the last two seasons while being the biggest and most talented receiving target on that offense, that deal can be justified. With his injury history, the smaller guaranteed money percentage makes sense.
I feel Owen Daniels is a very good comparison for Dwayne Allen. He has similar production and traits. He has been an effective receiver for the majority of his career (over 500 yards this past season and over 5600 in his 10 year career). He plays the vast majority of the team's snaps (whether it was the Texans or Broncos or Ravens) and is known to be a very good blocking tight end. He makes an average of 4 million per year in a contract he received last year, and was given that contract after many years of consistent play. For Allen to get nearly double that amount is surprising. Yes he has more potential, but he has little to back that up.
Someone who has missed 21 games in the past 3 seasons should not have 54% of his contract guaranteed. His guaranteed money percentage is as high as any top tight end in the NFL. The only tight end in the NFL (with a non-rookie contract) with a high guaranteed money percentage than Allen is Charles Clay (64%) and Jordan Cameron (83.33%). Rob Gronkowski and Gary Barnidge have guaranteed money percentages at 24% and 26%, respectively. Greg Olsen is at 53%, and he hasn't missed a game since 2007 (on top of playing over 90% of the offensive snaps).
With contracts these days being all about the guaranteed money, it's safe to say that Allen got paid like a top tier tight end in that regard.
It seems like Allen was going to fetch a pretty penny on the market (around 8M per year according to some sources), but that doesn't justify anything. That doesn't mean that Allen was worth this 7.4M per year contract.
This contract is purely based on potential, and that's what I don't like about it. Dwayne Allen can become a top 10 tight end, Dwayne Allen can become a star, but the key word is "can". It doesn't mean he will become a top 10 tight end. Right now, there is little to no evidence supporting his contract.
Personally, if the Colts had to choose between Fleener and Allen, I would have chosen Fleener, purely based on his production history, plus I believe his upside as a receiver is higher than that of Allen's. Nevertheless, that is besides the point in this article.
To wrap this up, my biggest issue with this is that this contract was given based purely on his potential. Allen has an injury history and has little production to back up his contract. Allen can become a very good tight end who's worth his contract, but at this point, he's not worth this much. I was a big advocate of a bridge deal and have Allen work for a big contract. As it turns out, the Colts skipped the bridge deal and went straight to the big contract.
The Colts have money to spend, but it doesn't mean they should look to use it all. Jerrell Freeman is the biggest free agent on the Colts and needs to be re-signed.
At the end of the day, super agent, Drew Rosenhaus, who has now secured big deals for clients Dwayne Allen and T.Y. Hilton. He must love Ryan Grigson!