The Indianapolis Colts are starting to have a crowding problem at the tight end position. Veteran Jack Doyle is returning for his sixth NFL season and is coming off of his first Pro Bowl nod, Chris Ballard added former first round pick Eric Ebron through free agency, and former basketball player Erik Swoope is returning from knee surgery in 2017 after showing his potential in the latter half of 2016. There are two other players who showed flashes last year in the tight end rotation, including second year Ballard pick-up Darrell Daniels and late season waiver wire addition Ross Travis — who Ballard knew from his time with the Chiefs.
The good news for tight ends in Indianapolis is that Frank Reich is no stranger to relying heavily on their contributions in his up-tempo mismatch style of offense. Zach Ertz averaged over 70 receptions for over 800 yards and six touchdowns during his two seasons with Reich as offensive coordinator. Trey Burton averaged 30 receptions for over 250 yards and 3 touchdowns during the same time period. In San Diego, Antonio Gates averaged over 65 receptions for over 750 yards and 7 touchdowns during Reich’s three seasons with the Chargers. Ladarius Green also averaged over 20 receptions for over 300 yards and over two touchdowns in the same offense as Gates. During his time in Indianapolis, Dallas Clark had a 100 receptions in 2009 and averaged over 60 receptions for over 650 yards and over 5 touchdowns during Reich’s 4 seasons with the Colts.
There are still legitimate question-marks at wide receiver and it is a position that will likely get more attention before training camp, but some of the bodies at tight end could certainly go a long way in making up for it. Doyle is a well-rounded player who is average or slightly better as a blocker and has been a reliable safety valve for Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett. The strides Swoope has taken from never having put on a helmet to burning the daylights out of linebackers and even corners in limited action during the 2016 season gives reason to think he could be a receiving weapon. For all of the hate that has been tossed at Eric Ebron during his time in Detroit, he has put up impressive numbers in his first four seasons.
Five TEs have accumulated 185+ catches, 2000+ yards, and 10+ TDs through their age 24 seasons. Four are/will be Hall of Famers.— Pat Thorman (@Pat_Thorman) February 21, 2018
Long story short, Ballard has two starting caliber tight ends tied up for the next two seasons and a third tight end on a bargain contract that is so small that he barely even registers against the salary cap at all — projected at $630,000 for Swoope. While it is fair to say that most positions on the Colts roster could use attention to inspire confidence heading into 2018, tight end isn’t one of them.