Jonathan Taylor’s career has taken quite a turn since he led the NFL in rushing in 2021. The Indianapolis Colts running back struggled last season as Indy went 4-12-1, and now Taylor wants out.
Taylor, who’s entering his fourth season, had wanted a lucrative extension, but it became clear that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, as owner Jim Irsay has been vocal in pushing back against running backs who claim the position is underpaid.
Taylor is part of a growing number of running backs who are unhappy with their contract situations — and who believe their position should be better compensated.
Irsay invited Taylor for a private conversation Saturday night during the Colts’ practice, and news of Taylor requesting a trade broke soon thereafter. Irsay responded that he has no plans to trade Taylor: “Not now. Not in October.”
When he’s at peak form, Taylor is one of the top running backs in the league. He’s averaged 108 scrimmage yards over the past three seasons, topped only by Derrick Henry (129.2) and Dalvin Cook (108.4).
So what’s next? Are Taylor’s days with the Colts over? With this depressed market for running backs, will there be suitors for Taylor? Will Irsay stick to his position against a trade?
ESPN Colts reporter Stephen Holder and senior NFL national reporter Jeremy Fowler answer the biggest questions about what’s next for Taylor and the Colts.
How dug in are both sides, and what are the chances Taylor’s days with the Colts are over?
Holder: Multiple sources have told ESPN that Taylor is incensed about his situation and has been for quite some time.
Taylor’s agent, Malki Kawa, tweeted on Thursday that he doubted the relationship between the Colts and Taylor can be fixed. And that, as well as Kawa tweeting it’s bad faith not to pay your top offensive player, might have ratcheted things up.
As for the Colts, they have taken a firm position based on Irsay’s unequivocal statement about refusing to trade Taylor. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but the state of the relationship between Taylor and the Colts is as bad as it gets between a player and team.
Taylor is on the physically unable to perform list. When was he expected to return and will it affect that timetable?
Holder: The decision to place Taylor on the PUP list Monday, which prohibits him from practicing until he’s activated, came as somewhat of a surprise. Taylor had surgery on his right ankle earlier this offseason, but a few weeks ago, Irsay said in an interview with “The Pat McAfee Show” that Taylor was “healed up.”
This situation, a source close to Taylor said, has helped fuel the frustration between Taylor and the team.
It is unclear when Taylor will be activated or — given the trade request — whether he suits up for the Colts at all.
What would the Colts be looking for in return if Irsay pivots about a trade?
Holder: The Colts, according to a source with direct knowledge of the conversations, would be seeking an early-round draft pick. That might be tough given the current climate about the value of running backs.
Former Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook, for example, remains on the market after being released during the offseason. But the Colts have settled for less than optimum value in a couple of recent deals. Last season, Indianapolis traded running back Nyheim Hines to the Buffalo Bills for running back Zack Moss and a conditional sixth-round pick. Then, in March, the Colts traded cornerback Stephon Gilmore — the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year — to the Dallas Cowboys for a fifth-round pick.
How will this impact Indy with new head coach Shane Steichen and rookie QB Anthony Richardson?
Holder: It doesn’t help. The running game will be a big component of the offense given the presence of Richardson. This year’s fourth overall draft pick, Richardson thrives in the read option and run-pass option. Having a playmaker like Taylor in the backfield would be a huge asset for the Colts, keeping defenses honest and potentially freezing linebackers after the snap.
Taylor’s big-play ability is what makes him most dangerous. Even if Taylor does return to the lineup, the lack of practice time with Richardson and the offensive line is not ideal.
What would the market be for Taylor if Irsay decides to trade?
Fowler: What hampers Taylor’s market is a team having to relinquish draft capital for the right to give him a new deal in this running back climate. Given Taylor’s importance to the Colts’ offense, Indy would likely want significant draft capital as part of a deal.
But Taylor makes a compelling case for a lucrative deal. He’s 24 and was the best back in football in 2021. His big-play ability should warrant a deal that pays well north of the $10.1 million franchise tag benchmark per year.