One year into a head-scratching four-year, $29.4 million contract, Indianapolis traded Allen and a sixth-round pick to the New England Patriots for a fourth-round pick. The move leaves Jack Doyle, a 2013 undrafted free agent, as the Colts' top tight end. Doyle signed a three-year, $19 million extension with the team Tuesday.
Allen enjoyed a terrific rookie season in which he was on the field for 77 percent of the Colts' offensive snaps. He caught 45 passes for 521 yards and was dominant as a run blocker. The wheels fell off from there. A hip injury cost him all but one game in 2013, and he missed at least two games because of injury during the following three seasons. Since that strong rookie campaign, Allen has seen his blocking fall off quite a bit, and he has caught a total of 81 passes for 930 yards and 16 touchdowns, half of which came in 2014. Now 27, he heads to New England, where he replaces Martellus Bennett as the team's No. 2 tight end behind Rob Gronkowski.
Gronkowski is the league's best tight end, but durability is a major concern. He has missed 24 regular-season games during the past five years, including at least five games in three of those seasons. The Patriots are obviously taking a risk here; Gronkowski and Allen have combined to miss 57 regular-season games because of injury during the past five years. Allen should be viewed as a borderline TE2 and top-end handcuff at the position. New England is unafraid to use two tight ends on passing plays, but Allen won't see enough targets and will be too touchdown-dependent to warrant TE1 consideration.
Doyle, meanwhile, is easily one of the biggest winners of the week. Following his big extension and the Allen trade, Doyle is positioned as an every-down player in a pass-first offense led by Chuck Pagano, Rob Chudzinski and Andrew Luck. Despite the Colts' struggles last season, Luck led his offense to 2.8 touchdowns per game, which was ninth-most in the NFL. During the past 10 years, Pagano and Chudzinski's offenses have directed a minimum of a 20 percent target to the tight end position. Chudzinski's average is 26 percent and Pagano's is 23 percent during the span; the league average is 20 percent.
Doyle shared time with Allen last season but was still on the field for 68 percent of the team's snaps, including 55 percent of the pass plays. He converted that workload into 75 targets, 59 receptions, 584 yards and five touchdowns. Twelve tight ends managed more fantasy points.
With Erik Swoope as the only other tight end on the roster, the Colts aren't done adding at the position, but Doyle is currently very much in the TE1 mix. My current 16-game projection is 88 targets, 62 receptions, 641 yards and seven touchdowns.