AFC South Reporter
The Colts are now apparently open to trading Jonathan Taylor.
Less than a month after owner Jim Irsay said he wouldn’t move Taylor in the wake of his trade request over a contract dispute, Indianapolis has given its star running back permission to seek a trade, according to a report Monday from ESPN.
Taylor is 24 years old and one of the league’s best tailbacks when healthy, but the position he plays and his injury status could complicate his market. He has been rehabbing his surgically repaired ankle, which has kept him out of training camp to this point on the Physically Unable to Perform list. He was also sidelined for all of the offseason program. He missed six games last season with a high-ankle sprain.
Trading for Taylor is essentially a commitment to paying him the big-money extension the Colts won’t give him, too. He’s scheduled to make $4.3 million in base salary in 2023, the last year of his rookie contract.
So which teams would make sense from both Taylor and the Colts’ position?
Here are five teams to watch:
The Dolphins are an AFC contender that could use a massive boost in their run game. Miami tied for 25th in rushing last season (99.2 rushing yards/game) and could be without third-round rookie running back De’Von Achane for a while. He is considered “week-to-week” with a shoulder injury suffered in Saturday’s preseason game against the Texans, according to Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel.
The Dolphins are expected to explore a pursuit of Taylor, per The Miami Herald.
Miami is a team that would likely have to get creative in draft compensation, though. It has just five selections in the 2024 draft, after losing its third-round pick for violating the league’s tampering policy and fourth-rounder in last year’s Bradley Chubb trade with Denver.
Why Jonathan Taylor would put Dolphins in a “Super Bowl class”
The Bears might be interested in pairing Taylor with third-year quarterback Justin Fields, forming one of the league’s most dynamic rushing attacks. With Fields on a team-friendly rookie deal — his cap hits are $5.1 million and $6 million in 2023 and ‘24, respectively, according to Over The Cap — absorbing a potential Taylor extension is doable for the Bears, who also have the draft assets to make a deal. Chicago has an extra first-round pick next year and second-rounder in 2025 for trading the 2023 No. 1 overall pick to the Panthers in the spring.
The Bears’ draft assets should naturally pique the interest of the Colts. It’s also a plus for Indianapolis that Chicago is in the NFC.
An elite running back could be what catapults the Bills into Super Bowl contention, bridging their gap with the Chiefs and Bengals. Buffalo hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2017 (LeSean McCoy), a year before Josh Allen was drafted. Adding Taylor into an offense that already features the likes of star receiver Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis and Dawson Knox would make it even more explosive.
As a team in win-now mode, the Bills might be willing to meet the Colts’ asking price for Taylor. Buffalo has nine selections in next year’s draft and holds its first-rounder in each of the next three drafts.
A trade for Taylor could require financial juggling on the Bills’ part though, considering the ramifications of his potential extension. Allen’s cap hit balloons to $47 million in 2024, according to Over The Cap. They also drafted running back James Cook in the second round last year.
Surprised Colts gave RB Jonathan Taylor permission to seek a trade?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With underwhelming quarterback prospects this season, the Bucs may have to lean heavily on the run game. And their top back, Rachaad White, didn’t touch 500 rushing yards as a rookie last season. Taylor would provide a much-needed jolt in the Bucs’ backfield.
Aside from lacking a fifth-round selection next year, Tampa Bay has all of its original picks in the next three drafts to use in a potential trade.
With a strong possibility that the Bucs draft a quarterback next year (Baker Mayfield is QB1 to start this season), it would make sense to have a proven commodity in the backfield like Taylor to take pressure off the incoming signal-caller.
[Related: If Jonathan Taylor is traded, nobody loses more than Colts QB Anthony Richardson]
Javonte Williams is the Broncos’ lead back, but he’s coming off a season in which he played just four games due to a knee injury. So Denver may find it difficult to pass up the possibility of adding an All-Pro talent at running back.
Quarterback Russell Wilson, looking to bounce back from the worst season of his career in Year 1 with the Broncos, played some of the best football of his career with the Seahawks when Seattle had a strong run game. And getting Wilson to regain his Pro Bowl form should be the top priority for Denver this season.
The Broncos are not in great shape with 2024 draft assets following the March 2022 blockbuster deal to acquire Wilson — they have just one pick in the first two rounds next year — but they could possibly pull from 2025 and/or ‘26 to cobble together the picks needed to get Taylor.
Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.
Get more from National Football League Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more