As the Indianapolis Colts enter the 2o23 regular season, Jonathan Taylor will remain a member of the roster — except he won’t be playing in games any time soon.
The Colts’ self-imposed deadline of trading Taylor came and passed on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET without the team accepting any trade offer. That led directly to Indianapolis’ decision to keep Taylor — who is nursing an ankle injury stemming from a January surgery — on the PUP list, meaning he’ll be out for the first four games of the season.
While the Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers both reportedly expressed interest in trading for Taylor, the Colts didn’t feel either teams’ trade discussions were strong enough to facilitate a deal.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard directly addressed the topic of Taylor while speaking to reporters on Wednesday, stressing that although the situation “sucks,” the relationship with Taylor is “repairable.”
“It sucks for the Colts, it sucks for Jonathan Taylor, and it sucks for our fans,” Ballard said. “It’s where we’re at, and we’re got to work through it, and we’re going to do everything we can to work through it. Relationships are repairable. They’re repairable. When guys get emotional and take a stance, you’ve got to be able to work through those. We’ve got work to do. We got work to do on the relationship. We got work to do to find a solution to the problem and what we’re gonna do.”
While Ballard said all of the right things from a PR standpoint, he was wrong on one key point — the relationship is not repairable. When Ballard’s boss — owner Jim Irsay — stuck his foot in his mouth by making a combative tweet about his star running back and the current state of the devalued nature of the running back position when it comes to contracts, the relationship between both sides ended right then and there.
The Colts are clearly trying to send a message to the rest of the league that they’re not just going to trade Taylor for the sake of trading him. After all, it was Irsay who insisted that the star running back wouldn’t be traded shortly following his trade demand after meeting with the Colts owner after his comments.
Shortly after allowing Taylor to seek a trade last week, Indianapolis made it clear they were seeking a steep return in exchange for the former NFL rushing champ — a first-round draft pick.
As Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reports, the Colts requested that the Dolphins include star receiver Jaylen Waddle in a potential deal for Taylor.
“As HolderStephen reported, Packers were mystery bidder for Jonathan Taylor, besides the Dolphins,” wrote Jackson. “And can confirm through Dolphins person, as reported by Indy media, that Colts made wild requests from Miami, including Waddle & more.”
So as Taylor begins the 2023 season seeking a new team and an eventual new contract, this much is clear — the Colts are seeking to establish leverage with interested teams by placing the running back on the PUP list. Furthermore, they keep him healthy as teams such as the Dolphins, Packers and other potential suitors — likely playoff contenders — grow more desperate for an X-factor at the running back position to gain an advantage over their competition.
With that being said, it goes both ways. Taylor is also relying on his “injured” ankle as a leverage ploy for not playing until he gets a new contract.
Secondly, Irsay is trying to maintain control over not only the situation, but Taylor himself. By not immediately acquiescing to Taylor’s trade and contract demands, Irsay is making it clear that he’s not at the mercy of one of his players.
Since Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement prior to the start of the 2019 season, the franchise has been a mess. While sifting through multiple short-term franchise quarterbacks — Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan — the Colts have suddenly regressed from a model franchise into one of the most unstable teams in the NFL.
A lot of that dysfunction has to do with the mismanagement by the team owner himself, Irsay.
Irsay managed to alienate the team’s top player as they enter their biggest rebuilding year over the past 25 years as their first-round rookie quarterback, Anthony Richardson, makes his debut.
Ballard may say the situation is “repairable,” but simply put, it’s not. You can thank the team owner for that.
While a Taylor trade may not immediately be on the horizon, don’t expect the former Pro Bowler to suit up again in a Colts uniform. The more likely scenario sees Taylor traded at some point during the regular season prior to the Oct. 31 deadline.