The Colts appear to be willing to trade Jonathan Taylor.
Less than a month after owner Jim Irsay stated that he would not transfer Taylor due to a contract dispute, Indianapolis has granted its star running back permission to seek a trade, according to ESPN.
Despite being one of the league’s finest tailbacks when healthy, Taylor’s 24-year-old age and the nature of his position might limit his market. He has been rehabbing his surgically repaired ankle, which has kept him out of training camp and on the Physically Unable to Perform list so far. He was also out for the whole off-season program. Last season, he missed six games due to a high-ankle sprain.
Trading for Taylor is effectively a pledge to pay him the big-money extension that the Colts would not provide. In 2023, the final year of his rookie deal, he’ll earn $4.3 million in base salary.
So, which teams make sense given Taylor’s and the Colts’ situations?
Here are five teams to keep an eye on:
Taylor and third-year quarterback Justin Fields might make one of the league’s most potent running offenses if the Bears team him with them. With Fields on a team-friendly rookie contract—his cap hits in 2023 and ’24 are $5.1 million and $6 million, respectively, according to Over The Cap—the Bears can stomach a potential Taylor extension, and they also have draft assets to do so. After trading the No. 1 overall pick in 2023 to the Panthers in the spring, Chicago now has an extra first-round pick next year and a second-round pick in 2025.
The Bears’ draft assets should naturally excite the Colts’ interest. The fact that Chicago is in the NFC is also an advantage for Indianapolis.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With no viable quarterback options this season, the Bucs may have to rely heavily on the run game. And their leading rusher, Richard White, failed to gain 500 yards as a rookie last season. Taylor would give the Buccaneers’ backfield a much-needed boost.
Aside from missing out on a fifth-round pick next year, Tampa Bay has all of its original draft picks in the next three rounds to use in a possible deal.
With the Bucs certain to choose a quarterback next year (Baker Mayfield is QB1 to begin the season), having a proven commodity in the backfield like Taylor to relieve pressure on the incoming signal-caller makes sense.
A dominant running back may propel the Bills into Super Bowl contention, closing the gap on the Chiefs and Bengals. Buffalo hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since LeSean McCoy in 2017, the year Josh Allen was selected. Taylor’s addition to an offense that already includes outstanding receivers Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, and Dawson Knox would make it even more explosive.
The Bills, as a win-now team, might be willing to meet the Colts’ asking price for Taylor. Buffalo has nine picks in next year’s draft and a first-round pick in each of the next three.
Given the implications of Taylor’s prospective deal, a trade for Taylor may necessitate some financial juggling on the Bills’ part. According to Over The Cap, Allen’s cap hit will reach $47 million in 2024. Last year, they also selected running back James Cook in the second round.
The Dolphins are an AFC contender who might greatly benefit from a significant improvement in their running game. Miami finished 25th in rushing last season (99.2 yards per game) and may be missing third-round rookie running back De’Von Achane for some time. According to Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel, he is “week-to-week” with a shoulder injury suffered in Saturday’s preseason game against the Texans.
According to The Miami Herald, the Dolphins are expected to pursue Taylor.
Miami, on the other hand, would most likely have to be inventive in terms of draft compensation. It has only five picks in the 2024 draft after forfeiting a third-round pick for breaching the league’s tampering policy and a fourth-round pick in last year’s Bradley Chubb trade with Denver.
Javonte Williams is the Broncos’ starting running back, but he missed four games last season due to a knee injury. As a result, Denver may find it difficult to pass up the opportunity to add an All-Pro running back.
Russell Wilson, aiming to rebound from the worst season of his career with the Broncos in Year 1, played some of the finest football of his career with the Seahawks when Seattle had a solid run game. And regaining Wilson’s Pro Bowl form should be Denver’s primary aim this season.
The Broncos aren’t in great shape with 2024 draft assets following the March 2022 blockbuster deal to acquire Wilson—they only have one selection in the first two rounds next year—but they may perhaps pull from 2025 and/or ’26 to cobble together the picks required to get Taylor.