Most Indianapolis Colts fans won’t admit it but this season is not going the way they thought it would go three weeks into the season. Very few picked the Colts to be 2-1 at this point in the season. In fact, many picked the Indianapolis to win just two games the entire season. Indy entered the year with a lot to clean up from last season, and one major factor that many felt would hurt Indianapolis was the ongoing contract feud with All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor.
Additionally, the overall youth and inexperience of the roster was expected to be a problem, especially with quarterback Anthony Richardson. However, the Colts are now in first place of the AFC South, without their best player. His replacement, Zack Moss, is blossoming into a reliable starting running back.
Zack Moss is shining for Colts
Last season, Chris Ballard made a deal at the trade deadline to acquire Zack Moss in exchange for Nyheim Hines and some day-three draft capital. Without question, Ballard has won this deal so far. Nyheim Hines is out for the season in Buffalo with a torn ACL suffered during a jet ski accident in the offseason.
Moss, on the other hand, has made the most of his opportunity. He has played in two games (and started) and has 48 carries for 210 yard and two total touchdowns (one by air and one by ground). He has shouldered the load for the running backs, as well, since he returned taking over 90 percent of the snaps. He has turned himself into a complete back since being known as a player who only ran between the numbers and didn’t do much receiving. This all comes why Jonathan Taylor is on the PUP list, and also seeking a new contract.
The ever-changing running back market
One might say that Jonathan Taylor’s extension request came at the wrong time. A few years ago, we saw the likes of Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara all get market-resetting deals. Extensions have really slowed down for the next running backs in line. These players include Taylor, Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Tony Pollard, who are coming off career years but not able to get a long-term deal.
There has been a drastic change in the NFL, as it has become more of a passing league and the salary cap money has shifted to the wide receiver market now. We saw some of the blueprint for the short term potentially with Barkley and Jacobs sitting out preseason and then getting a one-year deal that boosts the money they want with incentives to essentially continue the negotiations for another season without using the franchise tag.
Jonathan Taylor’s leverage against the Colts is nearly gone
Since training camp Taylor and the organization have been at odds with each other. Taylor has stayed silent, allowing his agent to handle things with Colts management. His agent has acted like a petulant child by calling out the owner on social media over his client’s contract and only adding fuel to the raging flames. The fact of the matter is, as pointed out by GM Chris Ballard in his training camp press conference, the Colts only won four games last year, and do they really want to make a commitment to someone that has not brought them victories?
Yes, he won a rushing title and had a couple of great seasons, but on top of the four wins last year, Taylor started the year on PUP list with a lingering ankle injury from last season. An ankle injury that shut him down at the end of last season and was supposed to have him ready for offseason training, which it obviously did not. No one can deny Taylor’s talent but if you are going to invest potentially 40-50 million dollars over the next three years, you need to make sure he is healthy and that he will fit into this new regime under Shane Steichen.
What’s next for Jonathan Taylor?
Taylor is eligible to come off the PUP list on Monday, as he is mandated to miss at least the first four weeks of the season. After that, the franchise has three weeks to formally activate him, otherwise, he would revert to the injured reserve for the remainder of the season. If Taylor decides not to play this season, it could get interesting between the two sides.
If Taylor does not play this season and remains on the IR, he would lose a season and essentially be back at square one from an extension standpoint, as rookie contracts are about accrued time. So, this could drag on for more seasons if the Colts wanted to. He could also be activated and refuse to play, which then could incur fines and suspensions by the team, which Taylor cannot afford to do financially as he is still on his rookie contract.
Could the blueprint that Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs agreed to be the new normal with the re-worked one-year deals with more incentives before they truly hit free agency? With the continued strong play of not only Zack Moss, but the entire team, Taylor is slowly losing all of his leverage, especially if they continue to win without Taylor’s services.