NFL running back drama could lead to another notable RB switching teams

Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Indianapolis Colts star Jonathan Taylor could be the next NFL running back to suffer from his position’s depreciating market. 

The running back market in the NFL has reached its all-time low. Teams simply aren’t willing to expend significant money on even the best players at the position. Saquon Barkley only narrowly avoided the franchise tag, the NFL’s leading rusher wasn’t extended, and it has taken months — not weeks, certainly not days — for Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliott to gain steam on potential free agent destinations.

Now, another running back is set to join the increasingly long list of spurned stars in unwinnable contract disputes.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay recently stated that the franchise has not made a long-term contract offer to Jonathan Taylor, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Now, a Taylor trade could be on the horizon.

Indianapolis Colts could end up trading Jonathan Taylor amid contract dispute

Per ESPN’s Stephen Holder, Taylor will enter next season “disenchanted” if the team cannot agree to terms on an appropriate long-term contract. While Taylor has certainly earned the Brink’s truck from Indy, all signs point toward this heading down the same path as Saquon Barkley in New York and Josh Jacobs in Oakland.

Taylor led the NFL in rushing in his sophomore season, accumulating 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground in 2021. He dealt with injuries last season but still managed 4.5 yards per carry and 861 total yards in 11 appearances.

The Colts’ entire offense has been built around the run game in recent years. The arrival of No. 4 pick Anthony Richardson changes the dynamic, but as Holder notes, the rookie out of Florida favors RPO actions at quarterback. Richardson would lean heavily on Taylor not only as a straight rusher, but as an option partner who can make an impact with his pass-catching too.

Indianapolis is not going to win many games next season, but Taylor is the most established weapon in Jim Bob Cooter’s offense. Productive running backs are a dime a dozen these days, but it’s hard to imagine the Colts’ offense approaching anywhere near its usual heights without Taylor in the backfield.

They say a picture says a thousand words, and Taylor doesn’t look terribly thrilled about the situation at Colts practice. He’s currently on the PUP list with no timetable for a return.

There are unavoidable contractual risks tied to a potential hold-out. Odds are Taylor will eventually suit up if the Colts decide to keep him, but Indianapolis would be wise to scour the trade market if the endpoint is inevitable. If the Colts don’t pay Taylor, he won’t come back — not happily — and then Indy would lose him for nothing. It would be better to search for a trade partner who might be willing to engage in extension talks.

The question, ultimately, is whether or not any team would be willing to engage on extension talks at the price point Taylor desires. He’s on the shortlist of players with a credible claim on the ‘best RB in football’ title, and here we are — not sure he’s going to get paid by anyone, anywhere.

It’s a bleak time for NFL running backs, and a concerning one for fans who love what RBs bring to the game. If the market continues at its current pace, we could be headed toward all-out war between running backs and NFL front offices.

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