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Colts Training Camp ‘Day 3’: Diminished RB market unfolds inside RV

Colts owner Jim Irsay shut down any trade notions Saturday night once Jonathan Taylor submitted a trade request following Day 3 of training camp.

NFL: JUL 29 Indianapolis Colts Training Camp Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

WESTFIELD – Colts owner Jim Irsay shut down any trade notions Saturday night once running back Jonathan Taylor submitted a trade request following Day 3 of training camp.

“We’re not trading Jonathan Taylor…end of discussion,” Irsay said. Not now and not in October!

Irsay arrived at Grand Park and invited Taylor to leave practice for a private meeting inside of his visible team bus beyond the northern end zone. Following a lap to engage with the stampede of fans trickling down from the grandstands, Irsay kept the conversation confidential, telling reporters the meeting went “great” with hopes for Taylor to play a big part in the Colts campaign. Irsay acknowledged his responsibility is to represent every player on the team and be fair when dividing each piece of the salary cap.

After undergoing ankle surgery in January, Taylor did not participate in OTA’s or minicamp, and has yet to participate in any camp practices since being placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Taylor did return to off the field toward the end of practice, 30 minutes prior to the chaos that erupted after the breaking news.

Running backs in the NFL are currently combating a conundrum, where average salaries for every position in the NFL have risen, with one exception. The average running back in the NFL ($1.8M) makes less than the average kicker ($2.1M), and it is clear the caveat for running backs involves the brutal beating taken during their careers. Taylor voiced his frustration regarding the diminishing running back market due to a variety of factors.

For starters, College football pumps out dozens of running backs in the prime of their lives into the NFL Draft. NFL owners have been hesitant to commit long-term to several top backs in the league, including Las Vegas Raiders’ Josh Jacobs, New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley, Los Angeles Chargers’ Austin Ekeler and free agents Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliot.

Irsay refused to fold and extend the 24-year old, not increasing his salary to market value. The Colts do not plan to offer Taylor a contract extension until after the 2023 season.

Taylor’s agent Malki Kawa certainly did not mince words earlier this week when responding to a post on behalf of Taylor, tweeting “I doubt it”, when reporter Ian Rappaport wrote “I hope this relationship can be fixed.”

Irsay dismissed the idea of the NFL caring about the fate of a player, or even an owner such as himself. As fast as the breathing room seemed to collapse during the post-practice media session, so did Taylor’s gravitas in Indianapolis.

“If I die tonight and Jonathan Taylor is out of the league, no one is going to miss us,” Irsay said. “The league goes on, we know that. The National Football League rolls on. It doesn’t matter who comes and who goes, and it is a privilege to be a part of it.”

Irsay boasts his franchise’s track record of treating players fairly, but then clears the air and stands firm in his position to let the 2023-24 season play out under Taylor’s current deal. The 2021 First-Team All-Pro is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is on track to earn $4.3 million this season. In terms of market value according to Sportrac, Taylor is valued as a tailback worth $13M per season.

Taylor cannot force Indianapolis to trade him or offer an extension. Indianapolis can use the franchise tag on Taylor after this season, which would equal the average salary of the top five highest paid running backs, (currently $10.1M in 2023).

Meanwhile on the gridiron, Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson moved the sticks consistently during head coach Shane Steichen’s third down themed team drills. Richardson felt comfortable slinging the football to receiver Alec Pierce after connecting a 60-yard bomb for a touchdown during Friday’s indoor practice.

Pierce snagged a catch on a comeback route in tight coverage during 1-on-1s, showcasing his eye-popping ability to gain separation in each practice session. Pierce sped past defenders and freed himself open on a deep corner route during the final 11-on-11 team drill. Richardson launched a 50-yard completion to fellow rookie and Colts third round draft pick Josh Downs on a deep corner route during the 1-on-1 drills.

After practice, Steichen was asked how he puts aside the field issues such as contract disputes.

“That’s my obligation as the head coach is to coach the football team,” Steichen said. “I got a lot of guys that I have to coach and get ready to go. That’s how I got to deal with that and that’s my mindset.”

Indianapolis has an opportunity to display a brand new style of offense with two of the league’s most athletic players in the backfield. Taylor set two franchise records in 2021, breaking the single-season rushing record with 1,811 yards on the ground and matched the touchdown record with 20. Richardson is improving his instincts in run-pass option play designs and can zip the ball to receivers Michael Pittman Jr. and Pierce, who thrive on shallow crossing routes.

Regardless of the burgeoning saga unfolding behind the scenes, the two players in the backfield for the final 11-on-11 team drill were Gardner Minshew and Zack Moss. All of the outside noise away from the football field has the Colts fan base fearing the verge of catastrophe before the start of August.