Doyle, Walden, Butler Among NFL.com's Top Free Agents

Intro: NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling on Monday released a list of their Top 101 available free agent players, and three Indianapolis Colts players made the cut.

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INDIANAPOLIS — The big event in Indianapolis this week, of course, is the annual NFL Scouting Combine, but let's not forget that the league's free agency period begins next week, too.

And with that being said, the Indianapolis Colts and new general manager Chris Ballard have some looming decisions to make when it comes to not only trying to perhaps lure a outside free agent or two onto the roster, but also when it comes to what the team wants to accomplish with its own crop of pending free agents.

The Colts head into the 4 p.m. March 9 free agency period with nine players set to become unrestricted free agents, many of whom have been major contributors to the team the past few seasons.

Three of those players, NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling believe, are among the top players set to hit the free agent market in the entire league this offseason.

Rosenthal and Wesseling on Monday released their list of the Top 101 available free agents, which included Colts tight end Jack Doyle, outside linebacker Erik Walden and defensive back Darius Butler.

You can see the entire list by clicking here, but here's where each player stands in this particular list, as well as a brief explanation as to why they could be considered precious commodities for any team across the league:

66) Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts tight end: Doyle emerged out of nowhere to be a sure-handed receiving option for Andrew Luck last season. Only 26 years old with good after-the-catch skills, Doyle's upside ranks with any free-agent tight end.

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87) Erik Walden, Indianapolis Colts linebacker: Mostly a letdown as a free-agent pickup for the Colts, Walden quietly recorded 11 sacks last season.

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101) Darius Butler, Indianapolis Colts defensive back: The veteran cornerback increased his market value by flashing versatility in the Colts' depleted secondary last season, spending some time at safety and acquitting himself well.

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Doyle is Mr. Everything for the Colts, as he not only proved he can standout for the offense last season, but he is also a core member of the team's special teams units.

After signing No. 1 tight end Dwayne Allen to a long-term deal and letting former No. 2 Coby Fleener hit the free agent market last offseason (he would sign with the New Orleans Saints), Indianapolis needed Doyle to step it up for the offense, which is exactly what he did. He caught 59 passes on 75 targets for 584 yards with five touchdowns.

Among players with at least 50 targets in the 2016 season, Doyle ranked ninth in the NFL — and first among tight ends — with a 78.7 catch percentage. Ahead of him were players like LeSean McCoy, Le'Veon Bell and DeMarco Murray.

Walden, meanwhile, turned in a career year in his ninth season in the NFL in 2016, finishing with those aforementioned 11 sacks, which was tied for the eighth-most in the league, putting him in elite company with the likes of perennial NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidates Von Miller and Khalil Mack.

His 11 sacks also almost doubled his previous season high, showing an improvement few NFL players are able to display so late in their careers. Was being in a contract year a source of motivation for Walden in 2016?

Then there's Butler, who has been among the more productive members of the Colts' defense the past five seasons. Since 2012, he has collected 179 tackles, 12 interceptions, three defensive touchdowns, seven forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

And, as mentioned by Rosenthal and Wesseling, Butler remained productive despite a change in his role at times in 2016, as injuries forced him to get several snaps at the safety position in the Indy secondary.

It's a move that's paid off for many other cornerbacks as they transition through their careers, and it's something that should serve the 30 year old well moving forward into his new contract.

Stay tuned to Colts.com this week to hear from Ballard and head coach Chuck Pagano, who will each speak with reporters from the Combine.

The analysis from those producing content on Colts.com does not necessarily represent the thoughts of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Any conjecture, analysis or opinions formed by Colts.com content creators is not based on inside knowledge gained from team officials, players or staff.

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