Jack Doyle just put up a similar season to Anquan Boldin. It was his first as a starter in the NFL, after three on the bench. During that time he was known for his special teams play and blocking. He was an undrafted free agent out of Western Kentucky in 2013. Doyle was waived by the Titans and claimed by the Colts before week one of that season. He had 35 catches for 209 yards in three seasons sitting behind Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener on the Colts depth chart. In 2016 he burst on to the scene. He started 14 games, had 59 catches for 584 yards, and five touchdowns.
What Does Jack Doyle Bring to the Table?
Doyle is a very well regarded teammate. Both TY Hilton and Frank Gore had nothing but love for the impending free agent. That kind of locker room presence has always appealed to the Lions’ coaching staff. Doyle is a skilled receiver, having bettered any Lions receiver in percentage of targets caught in 2016, at 78.7%. He lacks speed, but is incredibly gifted at finding the seam in zone coverage, and is physical against defenders while running his route. He also blocks like a snow plow.
In short Doyle is precisely the type of player that the Lions need at the tight end spot. He removes the need to bring an extra offensive tackle in for obvious running situations, and fills their need for a possession receiver. Jack Doyle is going to get paid this off-season, and the Lions should be one of the teams lining up to talk to his agent.
Why Might Jack Doyle be Available?
Doyle was a Ryan Grigson guy. Grigson did not make many good decisions in his time as Colts GM, which is why he was fired. Doyle turned out to be one of them. He doesn’t have an elite athletic profile, which could lead new Colts GM Chris Ballard to believe that Doyle is a replaceable player, and not worth the contract that he is likely to receive. Doyle is not exactly the kind of talent that general mangers typically go gaga over.
The key is the source of Doyle’s opportunity. Did the coaching staff believe he deserved a greater role, or did the incompetence of their former GM force them to increase his role? They are unlikely to let Doyle go in the first case, but unlikely to pay market value in the second. Doyle is also an Indianapolis native and lifelong fan of the Colts. He has expressed a direct preference to stay with the team, but the decision is not entirely his.
The Bottom Line for Jack Doyle
This is a player that does something that Bob Quinn seems to like. His acquisition would improve two roles with one transaction. Doyle is a perfect fit for the dual purpose tight end role the Lions need. His ability in the same situations as Anquan Boldin would also allow the Lions to knock wide receiver down their priority list, or go in a different direction with their depth chart there. Signing Jack Doyle also lets the Lions use Eric Ebron in a manner in which he will excel. Ebron will rarely be forced in to the traditional tight end in-line blocking role.
Jack Doyle’s lack of elite physical traits and a new GM in Indianapolis could lead to the Lions getting exactly what they need in free agency. The Lions have a reasonable amount of cap space, but it is not infinite. Having two starter level salaries on the roster will not hurt the Lions’ salary cap situation in future seasons, as they are a relatively cheap position. Doyle is my ideal target for the Lions in free agency at tight end.