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As the clock struck four yesterday, RBs across the league sighed as two of the league’s top RBs, Saquon Barkely and Josh Jacobs, left the franchise tag deadline without an extension. One question remains for Colts fans everywhere: what does this mean for Jonathan Taylor?


What happens when an elite talent meets a position undergoing constant devaluation in NFL circles? Josh Jacobs happens. And Saquon Barkley. And Tony Pollard. Each offseason, the league tells us what it thinks about running backs. You just have to listen.

Holdouts have existed since the inception of multi-million dollar deals, as players use their on-field leverage to maximize earning potential while they can. For running backs in particular, the track record is daunting.

To better understand why NFL front offices have largely spit in the face of the position, we must first understand the perspective from which they view it. Zero emotion exists in business decisions — at least, that is how it is *supposed* to be. Since humans have, ya know, feelings… it doesn’t always turn out that way.

A player has every right to feel slighted or upset when a team is eager to throw him to the wayside. The average lifespan for a running back in the NFL is 4-6 years. Read that again. When the ink dries on their rookie deal, the clock starts ticking. More times than not, that first contract is the only multi-year deal a running back ever sees.

On the flip side, all that matters at the end of the day for an NFL organization is success. Financially and on the field. Depending on which owner you ask, the order of those two things varies. Lucky for Colts fans, Mr. Jim Irsay has always been about winning.

Therein lies the rub. After Jacobs, Barkley, and Pollard all passed the deadline without a new contract, running backs from across the league weighed in on the situation. A tweet by ESPN’s Matt Miller served as the catalyst.



The Tennessee Titans’ star RB Derrick Henry had enough with the RB valuation discourse as he seemingly started a RB revolution as he fired back at Matt Miller in quote tweet form. Shortly thereafter, others across the league such as Chargers RB Austin Ekeler, Steelers RB Najee Harris, and 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey followed suit.



Even our very own Jonathan Taylor shared his thoughts with Twitter. The former Wisconsin standout is typically soft-spoken but never shy to speak up when the time is right. And Monday, the time was right.



Taylor is not wrong. Whether or not you understand the NFL’s approach toward running backs, it is hard to deny how inhumane it is on the surface level. Sure, these players get paid handsomely relative to the average occupation. However, few jobs require the physical toll that running backs go through on a weekly basis. If any position should want more job security, it is them.

But does this mean the Colts will back the Brinks truck up for Taylor next offseason? The 24-year-old ball carrier is entering the final season of his rookie deal after Indianapolis selected him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

He took little time acquainting himself to Sundays by running for 1,169 yards as a rookie. Taylor followed it up with a league-leading campaign in 2021, including the NFL’s rushing title. The Badger alum found the end zone 20 times in total, solidifying his place among the best of the best.

Now, after an injury-riddled third year, Taylor and the Colts will begin having tough conversations. By the sound of the tweets, perhaps those talks have already started. It is worth mentioning the iron man running back hadn’t missed a game since childhood before the 2022 NFL season (excluding one game in 2020 due to COVID). But lower-body injuries are fickle. Sometimes it just takes one to turn into an avalanche.

That is undoubtedly a thought going through general manager Chris Ballard’s mind right now. Say what you will about Ballard, but we can all agree on one thing. He is honest, for better or for worse. What you see is what you get. We should expect to hear from both sides as contract extension talks progress.

I won’t pretend to know how this saga will turn out. It is still early, and things could change in an instant. But I will say a market-setting deal is unlikely for Taylor. You might be wondering: What exactly does “market-setting” mean in terms of dollar bills and salary cap space?

The top contract in overall value is held by Saints’ superstar, Alvin Kamara. He signed a five-year, $75 million deal one day before the 2020 season kicked off. Kamara went on to have a phenomenal year, but his two seasons since then tell a different story.

Age 26 is when a vast majority of running backs start their decline. If that sounds like I am lying, remember back to the average shelf life of a career for ball carriers. 4-6 years. Kamara was no different.

The former third-rounder has missed four games the past two seasons and watched his career 5.0 yards per carry number dip to an abysmal 3.9. Furthermore, his usage in the passing game nosedived after serving as a trademark part of his game earlier in his Saints tenure.

Kamara survived the slew of cuts around the league, but other fellow runners weren’t as lucky. Ezekiel Elliott inked a $90 million payday with the Cowboys before his rookie contract expired. Dallas cut ties with the former All-Pro this offseason, only three years into the new deal.

Elsewhere, Dalvin Cook agreed to a $53 million deal on the same day Alvin Kamara signed his. He is now on the unemployment line. Life comes at you fast.

Even the players that avoided the pink slip still got hit with pay cuts as a result. The most glaring example is Joe Mixon of the Cincinnati Bengals. It started as a four-year, $48 million deal, meager by NFL standards. And Mixon still did not see the entirety of it without restructuring.

If we look at the “market-setting” label from an average annual value (AAV) perspective, Christian McCaffrey is the high man. CMC proved his value to a team after the Niners made a blockbuster trade midseason to acquire his talents. But he also presents a case *against* paying running backs.

McCaffrey missed 22 games after signing his $64 million contract before the 2020 NFL season. The Panthers stumbled to back-to-back five-win campaigns in his absence. It is hard to win when your players fail to suit up; it makes it even worse when they eat a giant chunk of cap space from the sideline.

Jonathan Taylor has certainly earned the right to hear his name mentioned in the same breath as these top-tier running backs. One could argue that a fully healthy JT is the best in the business at what he does. Just look at what he did in 2021.

Ballard, as old school as he is, has shown a willingness to deviate from the norm when paying “his” guys. Quenton Nelson and Shaquille Leonard forced Ballard’s hand by becoming All-Pro players early in their careers, but it doesn’t change the fact that they both play “non-premium” positions.

Extending things further, the Colts also locked up Ryan Kelly and Kenny Moore to deals that set the market at their respective positions. Simply put: There is precedent for a potential Taylor extension.

That being said, it will require compromise from both sides. The Colts will likely want to keep the AAV in the ballpark of $12-13 million, while Taylor will be more focused on the deal’s structure, including the guaranteed money and security that comes with it.

If the two parties negotiate in good faith, it would surprise me if a middle ground isn’t found. However, Monday’s situation could force Taylor into a lose-lose battle. Either he gives in and falls short of resetting the market, alienating his running back brethren. Or he stands firm at the negotiation table and alienates the Colts’ franchise and fan base.

Lucky for the Indianapolis faithful, the Colts do not have to make a decision yet. There is a chance that Ballard pulls off a last-minute agreement before Week 1, à la Kamara and Cook. Otherwise, the franchise tag awaits Taylor next offseason. He could be the next in line to get the shaft from the team that drafted him.


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