According to general manager Chris Ballard, the Indianapolis Colts are open to continuing contract negotiations with star running back (and pending free agent) Jonathan Taylor during the 2023 season (via the Herald Bulletin’s George Bremer):
Ballard side-steps a question about Jonathan Taylor’s contract.
Says “we could” allow talks to get into the season and do a deal at that time.
Have had “long talks” with the RB “back in May and June.” #Colts
— George Bremer (@gmbremer) July 25, 2023
Despite a season limited by injuries last year, Ballard and the Colts ‘still think very highly’ of Taylor and want to see how he fits within new head coach Shane Steichen’s offense. After all, he’s just a season removed from a monstrous 2021 campaign in which he led the league in carries (332), rushing yards (1,811), and rushing touchdowns (18)—as an NFL First-Team All-Pro and bonafide NFL MVP candidate at one point, until late in the season.
Taylor should be aided by the much anticipated arrival of top rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson, whose mobility should form a dangerous pairing in the RPO game. Not to mention, his upgraded arm strength should keep opposing teams honest in the box.
Ballard wouldn’t get into ongoing contract specifics—and rightfully so, noting that the seemingly deflated elite running back market “is what it is,” but that his mantra has always been “paying good players that are going to help you win, no matter the position.”
Further complicating matters is that despite earlier reports from club ownership that Taylor was ‘healed up’ following an earlier offseason ankle surgery—and no mention of it in the morning from general manager Chris Ballard, Taylor was placed on the Inactive/PUP list to begin training camp.
It’s possible Taylor is just looking to get his ankle fully right with a little extra recovery time, and unnecessary running back mileage early in training camp may be more harm than good anyways. However, the coincidental timing of it seems odd—given Taylor’s recent public frustration regarding the league’s valuation of its top running back free agents.
It’s fair to at least speculate that after reporting for Colts camp, Taylor could be ‘holding in’ for contract leverage and to let his displeasure further known:
Jonathan Taylor to the active/PUP list is different than what we were told this morning. Granted, he had ankle surgery in the offseason. But I think this raises some obvious questions that this is about something else. https://t.co/OWu9yewGLf
— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) July 25, 2023
Chris Ballard didn’t mention Jonathan Taylor going on the PUP when he spoke to the media around noon. So it’s fair to at least wonder if this isn’t about JT’s contract situation. Gotta wonder, right?
— Bob Kravitz (@bkravitz) July 25, 2023
For what it’s worth though, it does sound like Ballard and the Colts want to get a multi-year contract extension done with Taylor, sooner rather than later. Even if it may not be at Taylor’s ideal salary point, Ballard has a history of re-signing the Colts’ top players—and even at non-premium positions such as left guard and linebacker, so Taylor could be next.
My personal preference would be to try to take advantage of Anthony Richardson’s rookie contract right now and frontload the contract—softening the blow for Taylor’s inevitable later decline at running back on the backend.
However, it’s important that Taylor remain with the Colts for the foreseeable future because his presence should be instrumental for a young quarterback’s development—particularly like both Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James were for Peyton Manning many moons ago.