The Indianapolis Colts have two key wide receiver free agents this offseason. At least one of them, though, will return.
The Indianapolis Stars’ Joel A. Erickson reported on March 15 that the Colts have re-signed wide receiver and special teams player Ashton Dulin. The deal is a two-year contract worth a maximum of $9.2 million.
Erickson raved about the signing because of Dulin’s versatility.
“By bringing back Dulin, the Colts fill two roster spots with one player,” Erickson wrote. “Dulin has been the team’s No. 4 receiver in each of the last two seasons, catching 28 passes for 380 yards and three touchdowns over that span.”
“And he’s done it while splitting his time almost evenly between offense and special teams, the place the undrafted free agent first established himself in the NFL. Usually deployed as the Colts’ best gunner on punt coverage, Dulin has 35 tackles in four NFL seasons, including a remarkable 17 tackles in 2021.”
Last season, Dulin posted 15 receptions for 207 yards with a touchdown. He also had 2 rushes for 8 yards.
Although Dulin will return, fellow veteran receiver Parris Campbell remains a free agent.
Colts Re-Sign Ashton Dulin With Parris Campbell Set to Depart?
While Dulin is an invaluable part of the Colts roster, from an offensive perspective, he doesn’t make a major impact. Perhaps new head coach Shane Steichen plans to give Dulin more snaps on offense, but that could potentially limit the contributions he could make on special teams, thus hurting his versatility.
Campbell is the more impactful receiver. Finally healthy for a full season, he posted career-highs of 63 receptions for 623 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2022.
The Athletic’s Zak Keefer doubted that the Colts are willing to sign two wide receivers in free agency.
“It’d be very, very uncharacteristic for this team to dish out two WR deals in the same year,” Keefer wrote on Twitter.
Pro Football Focus projected Campbell’s market value to be $26.25 million on a three-year contract. That would give Campbell an average annual salary of $8.75 million.
PFF also ranked Campbell the eighth-best wideout and 89th overall player available in free agency this offseason.
Dulin played a career-high 328 offensive snaps in 2021. He lined up for 229 offensive snaps last season although he missed five games because of an injury.
When healthy over the last two years, Dulin has averaged 19.2 offensive snaps and 16.1 special teams snaps per game. It will be interesting to see if his offensive role increases should Campbell indeed leave in free agency.
Second-year receiver Alec Pierce is set for a bigger offensive role as well, which should help offset the potential loss of Campbell. But Dulin could be featured more often in 3-wide receiver sets.
Other Needs Colts Must Fill This Offseason
Part of why the Colts are unlikely to bring back Campbell is the numerous other needs along the roster.
Keefer tweeted that cornerback, offensive tackle, and guard are the team’s most pressing needs along with receiver.
The Colts saw cornerback Brandon Facyson leave for the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency on March 14. On the same day, the Colts also traded fellow cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the Dallas Cowboys.
That makes cornerback the biggest need for Indianapolis on defense. The team also needs to shore up the offensive line.
Adding a veteran quarterback is another possibility. The Colts are expected to draft a signal caller in the top 4 of the NFL draft, but the team could be interested in bringing in a quality backup to help mentor a rookie.
In addition to re-signing Dulin, the Colts have re-signed linebacker E.J. Speed and defensive end Tyquan Lewis. The Colts have also signed defensive end Samson Ebukam and kicker Matt Gay in free agency.