INDIANAPOLIS – Jonathan Taylor isn’t going anywhere. For now.
Whatever trade offers the Indianapolis Colts entertained prior to Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline – that’s when rosters had to be trimmed to 53 – weren’t sufficient for general manager Chris Ballard to move his star running back.
However, Taylor won’t be available for the Sept. 10 opener against Jacksonville or the ensuing three games. He was placed on the reserve-physically unable to perform list (PUP) while continuing his rehab from Jan. 25 surgery on his right ankle. That requires a player to miss at least four games. He missed the entirety of the Colts’ offseason work and was placed on active-PUP when camp opened in late July.
The earliest Taylor can return is Oct. 8 against the Tennessee Titans.
It had been widely reported the Miami Dolphins, along with another team, had shown significant interest in acquiring Taylor. His relationship with the Colts had deteriorated once they informed their 2020 second-round draft they would not sign him to an extension.
Taylor requested a trade, which Jim Irsay quickly dismissed after meeting with his disgruntled player following a one-hour meeting on the owner’s luxury motor home July 29 at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield.
“We will not trade Jonathan Taylor,’’ Irsay told FOX59/CBS4. “That is a certainty.
“Not now or not in October. That is a certainty.’’
The Colts subsequently allowed Taylor to seek a trade partner on Aug. 21. Two days later, they gave him a deadline of Tuesday – NFL cut day – to finalize a trade.
This marks the next step in a once-budding relationship that has steadily devolved. Taylor is in the final year of his rookie contract and has a base salary of $4.3 million this season.
Now, the Colts and Taylor must find a way to coexist, although trade speculation undoubtedly will persist until the NFL’s Oct. 31 trade deadline.
The team has viewed Taylor as a lethal running threat to rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson in first-year coach Shane Steichen’s offense. Imagine a defensive coordinator game-planning for a 6-4, 250-pound rookie quarterback (Richardson) with 4.43 speed working alongside a running back who runs the 40 in 4.41 (Taylor).
“We’re hoping to create the perfect storm with (Richardson) and Jonathan Taylor and that offense,’’ Irsay said during the draft.
Taylor is 24 and two seasons removed from generating the greatest season by a Colts running back. He was named first-team All-Pro in 2021 after leading the NFL in rushing with a franchise-record 1,811 yards and a league-best 2,171 yards from scrimmage.
In three seasons and 43 games, Taylor has rushed for 3,841 yards – No. 10 in franchise history – and 33 touchdowns. His 5.1 career rushing average is a club record and the best in NFL history in a back’s first three seasons. He set team records with 253 yards against Jacksonville in the final game of his rookie season with five total touchdowns – four rushing, one receiving – against Buffalo in 2021.
Before things went sideways, there was speculation the Colts would indeed sign Taylor to an extension.
When general manager Chris Ballard offered his synopsis of the Colts’ disastrous 4-12-1 2022 season January 10, he was asked whether it was prudent to re-sign Taylor or any player considering the state of the franchise.
“When they’re great players it is,’’ he said. “When they’re a special player, it is.
“I’m not gonna get into what we’re gonna do contract-wise with (Taylor), but when you’re a special player and a special playmaker, yeah.’’
Taylor seemed to accept whatever the team’s decision would be heading into his contract year when he talked with the media as the offseason program opened in April.
“I’m under contract for four years,’’ he said. “I put pen to paper. I made an obligation to them. They made an obligation to me.’’
However, if there were serious considerations internally to treat Taylor as they had done with others – Shaquille Leonard, Braden Smith, Grover Stewart, Nyheim Hines, etc. – the Colts had a change of heart.
At some point, Taylor was informed there would be no extension and the team would discuss a new contract after the season. That’s about the time he changed agents, aligning himself with Malki Kawa.
Complicating matters has been a high ankle sprain that plagued Taylor much of last season. He missed six games, including the last three when he was placed on the injured reserve list.
The injury required a debridement procedure Jan. 25 by orthopedic specialist Robert Anderson in Green Bay. A few days later, Taylor offered an optimistic update.
“The (ankle) had a bunch of junk in there from a bunch of years,’’ he said. “Just finally had to clean it out and make sure I’m good to go. We finally had time to get it right.
“I’m 100% ready to rock. That’s all you can ask.’’
Rehabilitation for the procedure generally is four weeks, perhaps six, but Taylor missed the entirety of the Colts’ offseason workout program and opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list (PUP).
That’s when everything escalated.
Taylor and Jim Irsay met for an hour on the owners’ luxury motor home July 29, at which time Taylor reiterated his request for a trade.
Irsay countered by insisting there would be no trade.
Subsequently, Taylor opted to continue his rehab away from the team one week, then was absent the next week for personal reasons that the team approved.
With no thawing of the icy relationship, the Colts gave Taylor permission to seek a trade on Aug. 21. Two days later, they set a deadline of Tuesday, the NFL’s deadline for rosters to be cut to 53.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.