The hearts of Indianapolis Colts fans sank Monday evening when they heard the news of All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor getting permission from team owner Jim Irsay to seek a trade. The whole situation between Taylor and Irsay has had Colts fans on the edge of their seats as both parties continue to disagree and the start of the season is drawing near.
The simple thing Taylor, or maybe his agent, doesn’t seem to be understanding is the market for the running back position in the NFL isn’t what it used to be years ago, such as in 2017-19 where running backs like Todd Gurley, Le'veon Bell, and Ezekiel Elliot were being paid well over the market value in 2023. This offseason alone, the running back market hasn’t been beneficial for players at all.
For instance, Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler requested a trade back in March, finding himself in a similar situation to Taylor as he sought a contract extension. He then ended up not finding a suitable spot that would satisfy him financially and keep him long-term, so he rescinded his trade request in May.
Shortly after, Ekeler and the Chargers agreed to a four-year, 24.5 million dollar contract, with more than two million dollars in incentives.
All in all, the business side always wins. Teams, at this point, in the NFL don’t care how good you can run the ball when the market is too weak to pay anyone a large amount and offer a long term deal.
The same scenario may play out the same way for Taylor due to the Colts asking for a pretty penny in draft capital in a potential trade, with Irsay seeking either a 1st round pick or a total number of picks that are equivalent to a 1st rounder.
I believe if this scenario does go through, it will end up quite similar to the Christian McCaffery trade from the Carolina Panthers to the San Francisco 49ers in October 2022. In the blockbuster trade, the 49ers gave away a 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th round pick for the All-Pro running back, who was coming off an injury-riddled period in his career, only playing 10 games in the two seasons prior to the trade.
Being involved with the Colts organization for the last 38 years, Irsay is nothing short of a mastermind when it comes to conducting business before pulling drastic decisions with the hopes of getting Indianapolis to the Super Bowl.
Irsay knows the current running back market is weak, so he is making it known that the Colts organization isn’t letting up for anything short of a 1st round pick or what upper management feels is equivalent. He seems to understand this is nothing but a tactic to be vocal on the Colts wants and needs.
At the end of the day, Taylor just wants to get paid above the market average, and have the security of knowing he will play for whichever team he suits up with for a long time. I believe if the Colts and Taylor come to an agreement that is similar to the contract negotiations with the Chargers and Ekler, both parties can be satisfied.
With the new addition of rookie (hopeful) franchise quarterback Anthony Richardson, and the 11 other draft picks from 2023, the Colts are in a full rebuild mode under the direction of General Manager Chris Ballard. Taylor is going into his fourth season with the Colts, and they will be in need of a veteran that has experience of being the best at their position.
JT is just that.
Not only has the dispute hurt Indianapolis in the boardroom, but it has also disrupted the Colts roster in their preparation for the season, as last week Taylor was excused from training camp due to personal reasons and hasn’t returned since being listed as “Physically Unable to Perform.” This came three weeks after Irsay stated the Colts would not consider trading Taylor to any team.
This whole situation seems to be burning bridges between the Colts organization and the Taylor party.
I believe if this doesn’t get settled before the start of the season, Taylor is going to end up holding out for the entire 2023-24 season. If that happens, the Colts season has a high chance of being nothing short of a debacle filled with signs of no progression or improvement.
All in all, this whole situation could not only make or break the Colts’ chances to make a run for the AFC South title sooner than later, but it may also be the deciding factor of how to treat the organization going forward with the rebuild.
Contact Calvin Scott with comments via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on X @CalvinAJScott.