Jonathan Taylor will be playing for much more than himself during the 2023 season

The Indianapolis Colts need Jonathan Taylor to have a big year in 2023, and so do several other people who aren’t Colts fans.
Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts
Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

Jonathan Taylor quickly established himself as one of the best running backs in the NFL. Although he’s only entering his fourth season in the NFL, he’s way past proving himself. However, the 2023 season is an important year for Taylor for several reasons.

For starters, Taylor is coming off somewhat of a down year. In 2022, he only played in 11 games, dealing with the first real football injury of his life. The limited action led to Taylor rushing for less than 1000 yards for the first time in his career. However, no one is really questioning Taylor’s ability, at least they shouldn’t be. Everyone’s just pointing out that Jonathan Taylor needs to bounce back in a big way, especially if the Colts are going to turn things around.

Beyond that, the 2023 season is shaping up to be a contract year for Taylor. Unless Indianapolis extends him before the season starts, Taylor will be a free agent next offseason. That’s another reason why he needs to have a big year, so he can secure himself a massive second contract.

The contract is also the reason Jonathan Taylor will be playing for much more than himself in 2023. As the running back market, and the state of the position in general, is at a crossroads, everyone is looking at Taylor as the pendulum that can determine running backs’ value for the next few years.

Jonathan Taylor could potentially define the running back market

Dan Graziano first pointed this out in a piece for ESPN, referring to Taylor as a player that will define the 2023 season. Now, Bill Barnwell, in another ESPN piece, takes an in-depth look at the value of running backs in 2023. Highlighting how established veterans like Ezekiel Elliot, Leonard Fournette, and Dalvin Cook are free agents right now, and also how guys like Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs are struggling to get paid, Barnwell says what happens in Indy with Taylor could impact the league.

"As of yet, though, no team has been willing to make that sort of leap and trust it can replace its star back at the end of a rookie contract without handing him an extension. If the Colts do that with Jonathan Taylor, who is now eligible for an extension after a difficult campaign, it would be a major step and a real question about whether teams are going too far."

Bill Barnwell (ESPN)

Barnwell highlighted two drastic possibilities: the Colts let Taylor leave in free agency and try to replace him, or they pay him a contract that pays him more than $16 million annually, resetting the running back market. Both extreme scenarios could push the state of the running back position in opposite directions. All of the running backs, and people who would like to see RBs get paid, are certainly hoping for the outcome where Taylor resets the market.

However, the more likely option, which Barnwell acknowledged, is probably somewhere in the middle. Indianapolis will probably keep Taylor but they aren’t paying him north or $16 million. Even still, it’d be very impactful for running backs if Taylor can negotiate a contract in the 14-15 million dollar range. A huge season in 2023 will cercertainly help Taylor’s negotiations.