The Indianapolis Colts placing Jonathan Taylor on the reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list at the Aug. 29 roster cutdown because of the surgically repaired right ankle he injured last season put a pause on the drama that unfolded between the parties during the preseason. By going on reserve/PUP, Taylor was required to miss a minimum of four games.
Taylor, who is in the final year of his four-year rookie contract, had become increasingly frustrated with the Colts' unwillingness to have discussions about a new deal. He is making $4.304 million this season on a $5,126,922 salary cap number.
The All-Pro running back's relationship with the Colts deteriorated after training camp opened in late July. The impetus for the deterioration was Colts owner Jim Irsay igniting a social media feud with his comments about running backs on X (formerly known as Twitter) during the early part of the preseason. He characterized running backs wanting changes to be made to the NFL because of being underpaid as bad faith.
Malki Kawa, Taylor's agent, quickly responded on X by charging that Irsay was operating in bad faith by not paying his top offensive player. A trade was requested after Kawa characterized the relationship between Taylor and the Colts as beyond repair.
Irsay was initially adamant about not trading Taylor. He eventually relented by granting Taylor's camp a short window of permission to seek a trade prior to the roster cutdown. The Colts wanting the equivalent of a first-round pick in return ensured that Taylor wouldn't be dealt.
Taylor is now eligible to come off PUP. He has reportedly recovered from the ankle injury. The Colts Titans on Sunday, Oct. 8.on Wednesday. Colts head coach Shane Steichen hasn't ruled out Taylor playing in Week 5's contest against the
What to expect next
The expectation is Taylor will be activated to the 53-man roster before the practice period expires. Activation would eliminate the one scenario of Taylor's contract tolling where he would be required to repeat his 2023 contract year in 2024 instead of his contract expiring after the season.
In the unlikely event that Taylor isn't activated by the end of the practice window, he would remain on PUP for the remainder of the season. Taylor's contract would only toll under this circumstance if he is deemed physically unable to perform football services as of the sixth regular-season game by the Colts medical staff. The NFLPA would surely file a grievance on Taylor's behalf with this remote possibility occurring.
Taylor reportedly hasn't rescinded his trade request. There will be plenty of speculation that Taylor could be dealt up until the NFL's trade deadline at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Oct. 31 unless he recants. Colts general manager Chris Ballard expressed hope that the relationship could be repaired right after the cutdown.
Potential trade compensation for Taylor, but which teams are still interested?
The Dolphins and the Packers were the most interested teams in acquiring Taylor while he was allowed to shop himself. Discussions never got serious as the Colts wanted wide receivers Jaylen Waddle and Christian Watson respectively from the Dolphins and Packers as a part of the return.
The Colts would need to adjust their expectations in order to move Taylor. A similar haul as the Panthers got for Christian McCaffrey last October is unrealistic. The 49ers acquired McCaffrey for 2023 second-, third- and fourth-round picks as well a 2024 fifth-round pick.
The McCaffrey trade compensation is the equivalent of a mid-first round pick, according to some of the updated draft trade value charts, such as Chase Stuart's from footballperspective.com. Conventional wisdom suggested the best the Panthers would be able to do was the second- (36th overall) and fifth-round picks the Rams dealt the Colts for Marshall Faulk prior to the 1999 NFL Draft.
The Colts getting back the equivalent of the draft capital used to select Taylor would probably be fair. Taylor was taken with the 41st overall pick (ninth of the second round) in the 2020 NFL Draft.
In order for the Colts to maximize trade value, Taylor probably needs to quickly start displaying the form that made him the league's best running back in 2021 when he won the rushing title by 552 yards while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He also led the NFL with 2,171 yards from scrimmage, 1,811 rushing yards, 20 total touchdowns and 18 rushing touchdowns.
Taylor resembling the player he was in 2021 could be a double-edged sword. The 2021 version of Taylor should be someone the Colts want to keep long term.
Taylor is more a luxury than a necessity with the Dolphins, his rumored preferred destination. Miami has the NFL's most explosive offensive without Taylor. Running back De'Von Achane, their 2023 third-round pick, is sixth in the NFL with 309 rushing yards despite missing a game. He is leading the league with an eye-popping 11.4 yards per carry.
Teams with playoff aspirations or in win-now mode that have already lost a running back could be intriguing options. J.K. Dobbins tore his left Achilles in the Ravens' season opener against the Texans. Also, the Browns lost four-time Pro Bowler Nick Chubb to a gruesome left knee injury in a Week 2 contest against the Steelers. Chubb has already undergone surgery to repair damage to his medial capsule, meniscus and MCL. He is going to need additional surgery to his ACL in the coming months. Chubb isn't expected to be ready for the start of the 2024 season.
Trade likely means new deal with new team
Presumably, Taylor will need a new contract in connection with any trade. McCaffrey is the NFL's highest-paid running back. The Panthers gave him a four-year contract extension in 2020 when he had two years left on his rookie deal averaging $16,015,853 per year. McCaffrey's contract has $39,162,500 in guarantees, which included a running back-best $30,062,500 fully guaranteed at signing.
There are current only four running backs with multiyear contracts averaging at least $12 million per year, down from eight at the end of the 2022 season. The last running back to get a big payday was Chubb in 2021 when he was going into the final year of his rookie contract. The Browns gave Chubb a three-year, $36.6 million extension averaging $12.2 million per year. The deal had $20 million in overall guarantees where $17,133,059 was fully guaranteed.
Taylor certainly wouldn't reset the running back market given the current financial climate for the position. Chubb's deal would probably be his salary floor for a contract extension with a trade.
Taylor doesn't have leverage with his situation. It wouldn't be surprising for Taylor to play the rest of this season for the Colts in a "marriage of convenience." Without a new deal in place by early next March, Taylor will be a prime candidate for a franchise tag. The non-exclusive franchise tag for running backs next year projects to 4.653% of 2024 salary cap. Assuming the 2024 salary cap is set in the $245 million neighborhood, this number would be right around $11.4 million.