The first official move the Indianapolis Colts made once free agency began this year was to announce the already reported trade of tight end Dwayne Allen to the New England Patriots.
But what led the Colts to move Allen in exchange for a fourth round draft pick? It sounds like the guys behind him on the depth chart played a big role.
“Look, Dwayne Allen was a great pro and a good guy,” GM Chris Ballard said this week, according to the Indianapolis Star’s Stephen Holder. “That was a really hard decision to make because he’s a great person. But sometimes to let a player take another step, you have to move on from a guy. And I think [Erik] Swoope’s got a lot of talent. We’ll see. I thought we saw signs of progression last year that were exciting to see. He’s got to take another step. And we’ll see if he does it or not.”
The Colts re-signed Jack Doyle, who will return as the team’s top tight end in 2017. The move of Allen was surely made possible at least in part by the assurance that Doyle gives the Colts at tight end, since he’s a very capable blocker and receiver. Doyle still started 14 games last year however, so he’s not a backup who will now get a larger role - he’s been a starter who will now continue as the starter. But Erik Swoope? Now there’s a guy who could stand to really benefit from the Allen trade, and it seems the chance to get Swoope more reps also gave the Colts confidence in trading away Allen.
“I think Swoope is really talented,” Ballard said. “I want to see Swoope get to his ceiling. He’s a very talented athlete and can be a mismatch player. The only way guys like that are going to ascend is by competing every day to get better. That’s the only way.”
The collegiate basketball player turned NFL tight end, Swoope impressed many with his play last season as the Colts’ number three tight end. He played in all 16 games and started four of them, catching 15 passes for 297 yards and a touchdown, averaging 19.7 yards per catch. He showed some nice playmaking abilities as a receiver, was able to get separation from defenders, and made the most of his opportunities. That definitely has caught the eye of the Colts.
“The physical traits are there,” Chuck Pagano said this week about Swoope, according to Colts.com’s Kevin Bowen. “He will continue to develop as a route runner, as a blocker. He just needs to play. You could see once he got on the field and got more playing time, he started to feel more comfortable. [This year] coming up for Swoope, it will be pick with the experience that he’s gotten and he’s gained through his practice and preparation and play. It’s a big year for him. He’s getting better [as a blocker]. It’s not easy blocking the guys that you have to block in this league and that you ask him to block. We try to position those guys and give them the best chance to succeed and not put them in certain situations that we know might be a little bit difficult. He’s getting better and he will continue to because he has a great work ethic.”
The Colts didn’t neccessarily trade Dwayne Allen as a direct result of having Erik Swoope, but it seems like it definitely was a part of their decision - trading Allen will open up more opportunities for Swoope while still having Jack Doyle there as the number one guy. The expectations are high for Swoope, and rightfully so after what he showed last year.
The team will still need a number three tight end, however, and currently only Brandon Williams is on the roster. Chris Ballard did mention how good of a tight end draft class this is, adding, “I don’t ever want to discount a playmaker at that position.” So we could still see the Colts add a tight end this offseason, but it’s clear that they have high hopes for Erik Swoope in 2017.