The Jonathan Taylor trade request fiasco is a sticky situation to say the very least. For starters, let’s say Taylor does find a trade suitor via whichever hypothetical scenario. What exactly does his trade value look like?
The Situation As We Know It
#Colts owner Jim Irsay says Jonathan Taylor will NOT be on the move…
— The Blue Stable (@TheBlue_Stable) July 30, 2023
As the boss man himself said, the Colts aren’t interested in trading Jonathan Taylor. Negotiations are going on between Irsay and Taylor’s disgruntled camp, but the probability of a trade isn’t as high as some would suggest. It would take a BIG offer from another team to pry the talented Taylor from the Colts. And considering the state of RB devaluation across the NFL, the likelihood of anyone making that offer + giving Taylor what he reportedly wants in his extension is small.
But let’s explore that hypothetical, as improbable as it may be. The timing of a trade + extension (or the Colts themselves extending him) has 2 scenarios:
- What would the Colts get for Jonathan Taylor right now? He has 1 year left on his rookie deal so he would start off cheap for his new team, but questions about his bounceback from ankle injury and regaining past efficiency remain.
- What would the Colts get for Jonathan Taylor after a moderately successful bounce-back 2023 season? The questions of his ankle injury and returning to form would be answered, however, he would then have to be traded off of the franchise tag which would be more expensive in year 1 for his team. That franchise tag cap hit might not go into effect if his new team agrees to an extension, but then it would likely be even greater of a cap hit. In this scenario, there might be more potential partners with a big 2024 Free Agent RB Class filled with 10 other teams having unextended starting RBs due to hit Free Agency.
Scenario 1: Colts Trade Taylor Pre-2023
Post-Draft, most NFL teams needing an immediate impact at RB have already drafted one. However, some teams have been entertaining Free Agent Running Backs Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliot. The Patriots, Dolphins, and Jets have all considered signing one of those veteran RBs. Each is in a “win now” mode and could see a veteran RB added to their RB depth chart. It is likely all 3 of them could also be interested in a potential Taylor trade considering Taylor’s more recent high-level efficient play and less mileage.
The remaining AFC East team Bills have been quiet on the veteran RB front. However, with the disappointing 2022 RB performance putting most of the onus of the run game on Josh Allen, they were not satisfied this offseason. They signed former Patriots RB Damien Harris coming off of a career-low 4.4 yards per carry to push 2022 rookie James Cooks for carries, but that solution still seems underwhelming. With former Colts RB Nyheim Hines now out for the year due to a freak jet skiing incident, the Bills RB depth chart is further in question. Making another trade with the Colts for an RB (now Taylor) gives them a definitive solution at the RB position to ease the burden off of Josh Allen and give them a boost from Conference/Divisional Round Contender to a potential Super Bowl Team. After what they saw of Taylor in 2021, I’m sure he made a strong impression on the Bills:
This historic performance was brought to you by the number 5. pic.twitter.com/OKMG0ErH9F
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) November 23, 2021
Potential Trade Packages
The most comparable recent RB trade is the Christian McCaffrey trade to the 49ers in 2022. In that trade, the 49ers had to give up:
Can the Colts get a similar haul that the Panthers got for CMC?
Remember when CMC was traded he was:
– coming off of 2 injury plagued years, only playing 10 games from 2020-2021
– 26 years old
– traded at week 7
– Netted 2023 Rd2, Rd3, & Rd4 picks + 2024 Rd5
— Jay Robins 🧾mark (@RobinsLucas) July 30, 2023
While Taylor isn’t the same weapon in the passing game and doesn’t have 2 1st/2nd All-Pro seasons like CMC did prior to his trade, Taylor has had 394 fewer career touches pre-trade and less of an injury history to scare away suitors. The remaining contract is also different as CMC is due 3 years and $37.6 million from his new team (including his 2 void years). Taylor’s new team would inherit just 1 year and $4.3 million remaining on his current deal before needing to sign him to a new one, which would be more expensive than CMC’s if Taylor bounces back in 2023.
While the exact circumstances surrounding Taylor and CMC’s skillset, injuries, and contracts aren’t the same, it is the only recent RB trade that has involved an All-Pro level RB. While it is unlikely the Colts would get more than the Panthers got for CMC, his trade is a framework for what it would take to pry the star back from the Colts.
Trade Package Idea #1: Indy Brass Finds Unlikely Compensation
- 2024 2nd Round Pick
- 2024 3rd Round Pick
- 2024 2nd Round Pick
- 2024 4th Round Pick
- 2025 4th Round Pick
An AFC East Team gets:
- Jonathan Taylor in the last year of his rookie deal
This package would be similar to the CMC deal, though not quite as much. Ultimately I don’t see the Colts moving off from Taylor without either multiple Day 2 Picks or a Day 2 pick with several Round 4 picks if only draft capital is offered.
Trade Package Idea #2: The Player Swap + Picks
Could another team emerge as a potential suitor if they want to swap players + picks? There are some disgruntled players out there besides Taylor. Aaron Donald, Mekhi Becton, Patrick Queen, Budda Baker, and Devin White all have had contract disputes this offseason. Donald seems to want to go to a contender as the Rams rebuild and while the pairing of him and DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart would be awesome, that is a lot of money to tie to DT in the short term and doesn’t address a position of need. He also would only be a short-term piece at best as he has recently contemplated retirement. Queen and White also wouldn’t address a position of need as off-ball LB is a strength of the defense, especially with a healthy (and expensive) Shaquille Leonard returning. Budda Baker’s contract dispute has been resolved with a recent renegotiation. Becton makes sense as OT is a potentially questionable position. But his injuries and questionable work ethic are red enough flags to steer clear from.
If not all of those players, who fits the profile of a young disgruntled player at a higher value position on a team that could use a star RB?
- Chase Young
- 2024 3rd Round Pick
- Jonathan Taylor
The Commanders have been quiet on the veteran RB market this offseason, which is a bit surprising. The team only averaged 4.0 yards per carry in 2022, tied for 27th in the NFL. Rookie Brian Robinson averaged 3.9 yards per carry and Antonio Gibson averaged 3.7. Their only addition to the RB room is 6th-round RB Chris Rodriguez Jr. Safe to say their RB unit doesn’t look too imposing.
Meanwhile Chase Young is the Commanders biggest X-factor in 2023, and new ownership could help or hurt his odds of returning. The team declined the former 2nd overall pick’s 5th-year option this offseason. After a Defensive Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl season in 2020 with 7.5 sacks, Young has struggled with injuries over the last 2 seasons. He has recorded just 1.5 sacks in 12 games in that span while dealing with a lingering Grade 3 ACL tear. The upside is certainly there for Chase Young to turn into a top-tier pass rusher, but the risk is undeniable too.
Goodbye knee brace!
Chase Young has been freed. Great sign. pic.twitter.com/eiD6ur4cKf
— Scott Abraham (@Scott7news) July 26, 2023
While Taylor isn’t at a premium position, the fact that we have seen him reach his All-Pro ceiling on top of a lot less worrisome injury means his trade value could be more than Young’s as of now. In which case, should the Commanders want to ship off Young and a Round 3 pick to transform their RB room and give Sam Howell a strong run game to rely on, the Colts would happily take on the risky but tantalizing Young.
Scenario 2: Post-2023 Bounceback Season Trade
In this scenario, there are far more potential suitors, which could drive up the demand for Taylor somewhat. The Buccaneers, Cardinals, and Vikings all could be added suitors to the list on the top of the AFC East, as each has potentially underwhelming backfields in 2023. 2 of them are likely in a position to get a rookie QB too, and could use Taylor to help a young QB.
Further adding to the list of potential trade partners are the teams with starting RBs set to hit Free Agency. As of now, the 2024 Free Agent RB class includes the following starting RBs:
- Titans’ Derrick Henry
- Raiders’ Josh Jacobs
- Cowboys’ Tony Pollard
- Chargers’ Austin Ekeler
- Giants’ Saquon Barkley
- Eagles’ D’Andre Swift & Rashaad Penny
- Rams’ Cam Akers
- Ravens’ JK Dobbins & Gus Edwards
- Bills’ Damien Harris
- Commanders’ Antonio Gibson
Some of these players could get hit with the franchise tag as well. Others could hit free agency and be signed by an RB-needy team. The problem is that there are 5 other top RBs that are due for extensions or tags to take away 5 spots of the 16 starting RB openings, on top of another talented and cheap RB class coming in 2024. There will still be suitors, but the amount of high-end talent potentially on the trade block, Free Agency, and then in the draft could cannibalize each other. The Supply for RB is high, but the demand is limited.
Most likely this trade would occur pre/mid-2024 Draft, but there is still a chance that if a team misses out on the top RBs via Free Agency and Draft or deals with an injury at RB they could make a trade offer post-Draft.
Trade Package Idea #3:
- 2024 Late (outside top 20) 1st Round Pick
- 2024 5th Round Pick
- 2025 1st Round Pick
- 2025 5th Round Pick
Trade Partner gets:
- Jonathan Taylor on a franchise tag off of a bounce-back year
- 2024 Colts 3rd Round Pick/2025 Colts 3rd Round Pick
Could the Colts get a Round 1 pick out of a Jonathan Taylor trade? If he has a strong bounce-back season but the Colts still don’t want to pay him top RB $, they could try to take advantage of his highest trade value and secure an extra 1st in the 2024 or 2025 drafts depending on when they trade him in the 2024 offseason. It would require the Colts to give up a 3rd in that same draft class, but they could also get another day 3 pick in return to balance out the trade.
Will This Even Happen?
The odds are, probably not. The most likely outcome of this contract situation is Taylor playing in 2023 for the Colts without an extension. Holding out makes no sense as it would make him a restricted free agent instead of an unrestricted free agent in 2024 as well as cost him $40k a day.
Requesting a trade is Jonathan Taylor’s only move not only because holding out costs him an accrued season–thereby delaying unrestricted free agency with only 3 accrued seasons under his belt–but the hope is this pushes a team to offer a multi-yr deal to secure him beyond ’23.
— JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) July 30, 2023
Afterwards, the Colts have to make a decision to either extend, franchise tag, or let Taylor hit free agency. Extending him would solve the issue and let the Colts move forward with their RB position resolved outside of depth (Deon Jackson and Zack Moss also are 2024 Free Agents).
Franchise tagging Taylor would keep him under team control, but Taylor would be able to hold out without the same penalties as in 2023. Jonathan Taylor and his management team would not be happy with this option as he would make a projected $13.05m and wouldn’t have long-term security on the team during another RB prime year of his career.
Letting Taylor hit Free Agency would likely only occur if he has another down season or an injury occurs and he isn’t deemed worth the tag money.
Basically, Jonathan Taylor ain’t leaving Indy unless the Colts say so.
More from The Blue Stable:
What seemingly started it all: Colts Owner Jim Irsay Throws Jab At NFL RBs; Agent Of Jonathan Taylor Responds