What happens if Colts running back Jonathan Taylor chooses to sit-out this season?

As the star running back's contract saga continues, it's time to dive into the variety of options Jonathan Taylor and the Indianapolis Colts have.
Indianapolis Colts v Las Vegas Raiders
Indianapolis Colts v Las Vegas Raiders / Michael Owens/GettyImages

After setting a self-imposed deadline, the Indianapolis Colts were unable to find a trade partner to deal Jonathan Taylor before the NFL season kicks off. Rumors were rampant across social media, but Colts GM Chris Ballard was adamant that there was never an agreement made at any point.

The All-Pro running back will miss at minimum the first four games of the 2023 season after being placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Taylor claims to still feel pain in his ankle after having surgery on it in January earlier this year.

Jonathan Taylor would be eligible to return to the team in time for a home matchup against the Tennessee Titans on October 8th. The problem is, nobody knows how long it will take until Taylor is healthy. Chris Ballard repeatedly said that the Colts will not force him to play through injury, and want him to fully heal before returning to the playing field.

Backup running back Deon Jackson is expected to be the team's starter for this Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, making it Jackson's third career start in the NFL. With this kind of inexperience leading the backfield, one would assume that Shane Steichen would want Taylor to return ASAP. A trade request looms over the Indianapolis front office, but they are determined to win Taylor back. But what happens if Taylor is determined not to play for the Colts in 2023?

Jonathan Taylor could choose to hold out during the 2023 season

A hold-out situation is very possible, and it could be Taylor's go-to option. With his rookie contract expiring after this year, Taylor is set to earn just over four million dollars in the 2023 season. If he remains on the PUP list, Taylor would still be paid for every week. However, if he spends the entire season on the PUP list, his contract will toll a year, and he’d be back in the same spot next offseason.

When team doctors clear Taylor to return to practice is when things become real. If the 24-year-old refuses to return to the field after being medically cleared, Taylor would lose out on nearly $240,000 for every game that he chooses to miss. The only advantage Taylor would have with sitting out is protecting his body, but the negatives would outweigh the positives.

If Taylor chooses to hold-out for the whole season he would be a restricted free agent after the season. Indianapolis would have the opportunity to place a tender on him and match any contract offer that a team makes for Taylor. Additionally, the Colts have the option to franchise tag the unanimous All-Pro running back for the next two years.

A Jonathan Taylor trade is possible, but unlikely

Basically, Taylor has very little strength in contract or trade negotiations. The Colts still have the option to trade him, but it's unlikely that this happens because of an asking price that no team wants to match. The front office holds a lot of power in these negotiations, and Taylor is unlikely to be let go for nothing.

"“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.""

Colts GM Chris Ballard

Ballard wants to work through their issues with Taylor, and he said that the sides are continuing to talk with one another as the weeks pass by. Contract negotiations are always bound to have disagreements, and this one is no different. With four weeks set aside for Taylor to recover, it's still possible for the relationship between the team and the player to be repaired.