According to The Athletic’s Dianna Russini, the contract that unhappy Indianapolis Colts star running back Jonathan Taylor ‘is expecting is the challenge’ right now—presumably for both the Horseshoe’s willingness to re-sign him, as well as for finding a realistic trade suitor:
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor has been given permission by the team to seek a trade, a source confirmed. @AdamSchefter first to report.— Dianna Russini (@DMRussini) August 21, 2023
While there are teams paying attention, one team source shared “the contract he is expecting is the challenge”
Taylor is entering the last year of his rookie contract, and despite his ankle seemingly not being 100% from earlier offseason surgery and still on PUP, he wants to become the highest paid running back in NFL history—in a league where the position is clearly devalued collectively.
Taylor and his representation have to temper their expectations in a modern day elite running back free agent market that just saw the New York Giants Saquon Barkley, a 26 year old 2022 NFL Pro Bowler, begrudgingly settle for a 1-year, $10.091 franchise tag. The same could very well happen to Taylor an offseason from now—like it or not, fair or unfair.
That being said, last indications were that the Colts weren’t even interested in making Taylor an offer at this time, instead electing to have him play out the season and see both A) if he’s fully healthy (and highly productive) again, and B) how he pairs in new head coach Shane Steichen’s offense going forward.
The Colts have to operate in the franchise’s best interests long-term, and to be fair, they didn’t create the current diminished league-wide running back market, they’re just now potentially major players within the confines of it. They have no real reason to bid against themselves right now.
However, the Colts have a top rookie quarterback, Anthony Richardson, to protect, ensure his utmost growth and development, and place in a highly favorable position to succeed. Losing Taylor in their starting backfield and as the offense’s focal point as its best player clearly hurts that (*at least for Richardson initially).
It’s also a fair point of what exactly the Colts are planning to spend their projected $157M of available team salary cap space in 2025 (i.e., two years from now)—meaning there’s major flexibility going forward. Not to mention, this is a franchise that just highly paid an offensive guard and a linebacker, but an elite running back is where they arbitrarily draw the line?
Further complicating matters elsewhere is that the Colts are seeking a first round pick or the equivalent value in a trade, meaning any potential Taylor suitor would have to shell out not only a first round pick value-wise, but the lucrative multi-year contract (and major salary cap dollar hit) that the disgruntled former All-Pro running back and his camp are clearly seeking—creating a double whammy and a major deterrent for any possible deal.
If nothing else, the ongoing contentious relationship between Taylor and the Colts should be currently listed as “it’s complicated” regarding their Facebook relationship status—with no clear resolution in sight.