The Jonathan Taylor situation has quickly gone off the rails. Taylor has not received a contract extension this offseason. As someone who is still on his rookie contract, at the top of his game, and has yet to suffer a severe injury, Taylor would like the long-term security a lucrative contract extension provides. However, that offer hasn't come. Uncoincidentally, Taylor requested a trade.
ESPN Colts beat reporter Stephen Holder let it be known beforehand that this situation was on shaky ground:
I’m not predicting that Jonathan Taylor will be traded. But I’m also telling you that things between him and the Colts seem to be unraveling and that everything is on the table right now. My take from tonight’s @SportsCenter: pic.twitter.com/8HpEmVZN4X
— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) July 29, 2023
The next day, Taylor's trade request was made public. Colts owner Jim Irsay stated afterward that the Colts won't trade Taylor:
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) July 30, 2023
After that happened, reports circulated that putting Taylor on the non-football injury list could be a possibility. This stems from an alleged back injury Taylor suffered before camp. While Taylor is unlikely to stay there the full season, there is the possibility the Colts could leave him there and have his contract toll, meaning he wouldn't accrue a season on his rookie contract and have one more season under contract before possibly becoming a free agent. Taylor resoundingly denied having a back injury:
1.) Never had a back pain.
2.) Never reported back pain.
Not sure who “sources” are, but find new ones 🤔
— Jonathan Taylor (@JayT23) July 31, 2023
Yeah, this situation is rocky, to say the least. Taylor wants a bag (as he should), and the Colts have concerns about paying a running back top-of-the-market money. There is merit to that, of course, but the Colts are a team that actually could get away with it while having a quarterback on a rookie contract (Anthony Richardson). Regardless, the possibility of a trade is there, though that doesn't seem imminent yet. Who could trade for Jonathan Taylor? Could a deal make sense with the Chicago Bears?
Bears-Colts Trade: Jonathan Taylor for conditional third-round pick
Why Colts accept trade
The Colts accept this trade because they're rebuilding. When a team is rebuilding, it makes sense to get back as much draft capital as you can, especially if it's for someone the team doesn't want to pay or keep around. Surely, the Colts want to keep Jonathan Taylor the player, but their unwillingness to even offer an extension screams that they would value a draft pick more than they do the player. A conditional third-round pick that can be elevated to a second would make sense for both parties. What the condition is hinges on what those teams can agree upon.
Why Bears accept trade
The Bears accept the trade because they can pay Jonathan Taylor what he wants. Justin Fields is still on his rookie contract and will be from 2023-2025, assuming the Bears accept the fifth-year option on Fields' contract. The Bears have $31.9 million in cap space for this season and most of that will carry into next season. Not all of it, because the Bears did just give tight end Cole Kmet a four-year, $50 million extension and have pending free agents of their own to tend to, but there should still be enough room for an extension with Taylor thanks to Fields' contract. When a team has a good quarterback on a rookie deal, it makes sense to surround him with as much talent possible while on that deal. Taylor is one of the best running backs in the NFL, so he fits that criterion.
Taylor also is just flat-out better than any running back the Bears have. With all due respect to Khalil Herbert, Roschon Johnson, and D'Onta Foreman (Herbert has been one of the most efficient running backs since entering the NFL; Johnson has a three-down skill set; Forman is a grinder), none of them are Taylor and have come close to handling the workload Taylor has in the NFL. Herbert and Foreman have combined to handle 568 carries and 38 targets in the past two seasons at 4.65 yards per carry. That's across 56 games between the two players. In 28 games played the last two seasons, Taylor has handled 524 carries and 91 targets while averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Taylor would be an immense upgrade to the Bears' run game after losing David Montgomery.
The Colts and Jonathan Taylor are at a standstill. Taylor unfortunately doesn't have leverage, the reality of being a running back in today's NFL. A Taylor trade doesn't look to be on the horizon yet, but the possibility is more real than ever. If it does happen, the Bears are a team that would make sense to acquire Taylor from the Colts.