Colts Not Dismissing Jonathan Taylor Trade

The Colts-Jonathan Taylor impasse has showed no signs of ending, as the second week of a training camp observational period begins for the talented running back. Jim Irsay has indicated the Colts will not honor Taylor’s trade request, but this escalating situation might be moving the team toward at least considering a deal.

Trading Taylor is a subject that has not been completely shut down at Colts headquarters, Stephen Holder of reports, adding multiple NFL execs believe a trade market exists for the 24-year-old back. Going into his fourth season, Taylor is a more attractive commodity compared to the lot of late-20-somethings on the free agent market.

A team that acquires Taylor could attempt to slow-play this, as the Colts are doing by indicating no extension offer is coming soon, with a 2024 franchise tag available. But it should be considered likely a team that acquires the contract-year back would have a contract ready to go. Multiple teams are believed to be open to a trade-and-extend scenario involving the former rushing champion.

Indianapolis’ goal remains to retain Taylor, Jeff Howe of The Athletic writes, and have him back in his starting role to begin the Anthony Richardson era (subscription required). As this offseason has shown, running back leverage has cratered. Midlevel free agent contracts, cap-casualty decisions, pay cuts and a franchise tag deadline coming and going without an extension has turned this into a crisis point for the position. Derrick Henry has initiated talks among backs about their position’s standing, per’s Terry McCormick, and Taylor voiced frustration after the tag deadline hit without Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs or Tony Pollard landing a deal.

A host of anonymous executives informed Howe a trade should not be considered likely, due to the cost of a second contract and the supply-and-demand issue plaguing the position. While Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliott were listed by two such execs as cheaper options, Taylor would represent a higher class of player at this stage of his career. The Colts RB has 860 career touches; Cook and Elliott are at 1,503 and 2,186, respectively. A team could view Taylor as a much better asset and pull off a trade, and an extension — despite the carnage on the RB market this year — could line up well as the salary cap booms. That said, no team has even authorized a $12MM-per-year RB deal since the Browns paid Nick Chubb in July 2021. Due to his age and the cap rise, Taylor could logically be targeting the Christian McCaffreyAlvin Kamara bracket, but no team has signed off on a $14MM-AAV deal for a back since the Saints inked Kamara in August 2020.

The Colts, particularly Irsay and GM Chris Ballard, have been surprised by Taylor’s attitude at camp, per Holder. Taylor hired a new agent this offseason and has not only become frustrated by his contract situation, but Holder adds the Colts’ approach to injury management has irked the Wisconsin alum. Taylor underwent arthroscopic ankle surgery in January, and the procedure was not expected to keep him out too long. Irsay pronounced him as ready to roll for camp. But Holder adds the Colts wanted Taylor to return to Indianapolis shortly before camp. This request did not go over well with Taylor, who interpreted it as a team push to return to action before he was 100%.

Taylor played hurt during last year’s miserable Colts campaign, finishing the season despite needing ankle surgery. Holder echoes the Sunday report regarding Taylor complaining of back and hamstring pain when coming to camp. Taylor has denied he notified the Colts of back pain, a subject that led to the rumor the Colts could shift him from the PUP list to the NFI list — a matter that could affect Taylor’s salary. That rumor only further intensified this situation, though Holder adds the PUP-to-NFI shift is unlikely.

Still, Taylor remains out of action. It is unclear if the ankle injury sustained in October 2022 is truly keeping him off the field or if this is a hold-in measure. The Colts, who have also lost Zack Moss to a broken arm, worked out Kenyan Drake on Wednesday.

It will be interesting to see if any viable trade offers come in for Taylor, who is set to be part of a big free agency class — one that, as of now, would include Barkley, Jacobs, Pollard, Henry, Austin Ekeler, J.K. Dobbins, AJ Dillon. We are still far away from that point, but it represents another factor that would work against him leaving Indianapolis via a 2023 trade.

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