The always-entertaining Colts owner caused a stir on Twitter Wednesday evening. While pondering the current running back situation in the NFL, Jim Irsay went into great detail explaining the owners’ side of things. He also took a direct jab at agents. Malki Kawa, the agent of Jonathan Taylor, took exception.
But First, How Did We Get Here?
Jonathan Taylor blossomed into an All-Pro caliber player in 2021, putting him on a clear path to a monster contract extension. Alas, the 2022 NFL season brought the first major injury of JT’s football career. Although Taylor is well-conditioned and relatively young, this injury highlights a bigger issue for the position.
Running backs have a typical shelf life of 4-6 years in the NFL. The average rookie contract is four seasons, with first-rounders having a fifth-year option on the backend. For a ball carrier, these numbers are damning and explain how we got to this point. Due to this lack of durability, teams and players often have a divide in value.
Several veterans arranged a Zoom meeting spearheaded by NFLPA Vice President Austin Ekeler. From Najee Harris to Saquon Barkley to Indy’s own Jonathan Taylor, countless high-end talents have voiced their frustrations over the past few weeks.
Jim Irsay Lights A Fire
Irsay’s tweet encapsulates the viewpoint of most organizations regarding running back contracts and any future negotiations.
NFL Running Back situation- We have negotiated a CBA,that took years of effort and hard work and compromise in good faith by both sides..to say now that a specific Player category wants another negotiation after the fact,is inappropriate. Some Agents are selling ‘bad faith’..
— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) July 26, 2023
The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) legislates the parameters for rookie contracts and franchise tags, among other financial-laden details. The agreement lasts for ten years upon ratification, which means the current deal is locked in until 2030.
The pact introduced more revenue to the player pool and brought less penalty for violation of the substance abuse policy. There were a few other improvements on the player side of things, but those additions came with sacrifices.
One unintended consequence of the current deal is the continued devaluation of running backs around the league. The franchise tag takes away all negotiation power for the player, especially at a position that sees talented ball carriers fall off a cliff in their late 20s. When a running back finally gets to the open market, it is far too late to secure a lucrative payday.
Is Jonathan Taylor Being Unreasonable?
The lack of control over their own future leads to understandable frustration from the athletes’ point of view. Why should they put their livelihood and body on the line if it results in zero loyalty or good faith from the franchise they represent? Sure, the players make more money than I will ever see. But relative to their peers, contracts and job security pale in comparison.
Taylor’s agent, Malki Kawa, did not take kindly to the words tweeted out by Irsay. Kawa even “quote-tweeted” a reply, firing a shot back of his own.
Bad faith is not paying your top offensive player https://t.co/ZYvrLhxygG
— malki kawa (@malkikawa) July 27, 2023
The polarizing owner of the Colts has never been one to mince words or hold back. But one has to wonder if the post did more harm than good. The agent then doubled down in a tweet Thursday afternoon, effectively saying the relationship is beyond repair at this point.
I doubt it 🤷🏻♂️ https://t.co/LGGmD1hmmV
— malki kawa (@malkikawa) July 27, 2023
This is not the first time general manager Chris Ballard will have to clean up Irsay’s mess in the media. And if Ballard sticks around, it certainly won’t be the last, either.
What Does The Future Hold For Jonathan Taylor?
The 64-year-old Irsay does have a point, however. The players did agree to and sign the CBA in 2020. And frankly, there is little to be done in the way of changes until the decade ends. Unfortunately — for this current batch of running backs — they will be long over the hill by then.
It is quite a conundrum. The running backs are justified for wanting more job security at such a violent position, but the worry in regards to longevity is not unwarranted for teams. Like it or not, NFL front offices operate from a “what will you do for me” stance rather than a “what have you done for me” stance.
Jonathan Taylor, with the help of Malki Kawa, looks to blaze a new trail. The idea of a middle ground still exists, but could Irsay’s tweet alienate the Colts’ star? Are Kawa’s tweets proof? How does the rest of the locker room feel about this situation? All of these questions are at the forefront as training camp continues.