Colts give Jonathan Taylor permission to seek out trade, source says

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Indianapolis Colts players not participating in practice, left to right, safety Julian Blackmon, running back Jonathan Taylor and safety Daniel Scott walk to the field during practice at the NFL team's football training camp in Westfield, Ind., Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLISThe Indianapolis Colts have given disgruntled running back Jonathan Taylor permission to find a trade partner, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Monday.

The person requested anonymity because it has not been released publicly.

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Just two days earlier Shane Steichen told reporters Taylor would rejoin the team Sunday following an excused absence to tend to a personal matter. Then on Sunday, Steichen said Taylor would travel with the Colts to Philadelphia, where the teams will hold a joint practice Tuesday before playing their preseason finales Thursday.

Taylor has not practiced since the end of last season because of offseason ankle surgery.

The 2021 NFL rushing champion went on the physically unable to perform list when the Colts reported to training camp July 25 and is still on it as he continues to rehab. Steichen did not say whether Taylor might practice in Philadelphia.

“I do not know,” he said. "Once he is cleared to play, like I said, he’ll be back.”

Taylor's injury is just one complication in an ugly contract dispute that has played out on X, formerly known as Twitter, in the media and even included a one-hour meeting between Taylor and Jim Irsay on the team owner's motorhome, which was parked in full view of a capacity crowd at the team's training camp complex.

The 2021 NFL rushing champ also wants an extension as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. Taylor is slated to earn $4.3 million this season and has been one of the more vocal running backs in recent months who has complained about the low value placed on the position by teams.

Many running backs don't get second contracts and teams are generally unwilling to pay premium money for players whose careers tend to be shorter and younger, quicker, cheaper options are almost always available. As a result, only kickers and punters have lower franchise tags than the $10.1 million for rushers.

Indy has not yet started negotiating a new deal for three reasons — it wants to make sure Taylor is healthy, it wants to see how Taylor fits in Steichen's new offense and it could use the franchise tag to keep Taylor in the locker room for two more seasons.

Following the motorhome meeting, Irsay said he was hopeful Taylor would have a good season. Later that same night, word leaked Taylor had requested a trade.

Now, Irsay may be trying to patch things up.

“I know these things are always difficult. I respect any time people are trying to fight for their position and their families and all those things,” Irsay said during the broadcast of Saturday's 24-17 victory over the Chicago Bears. “We’re really looking forward to him playing his way into being the Jonathan Taylor he was.”

Irsay added: "I know (general manager) Chris Ballard is going to work hard and get the waters as calm as they can and go forward.”

What it would take to acquire the 24-year-old who was a high school star in New Jersey before topping the 2,000-yard mark twice with the Wisconsin Badgers is unclear. Another team would have to give up two first-round draft picks to get Taylor if he were under the franchise designation.

While the primary concern over Taylor coming out of college was his heavy workload, 926 carries in three seasons with the Badgers, it didn't slow his NFL presence.

As a rookie, Taylor rushed for 1,169 yards and averaged 5.0 yards per carry after replacing the injured Marlon Mack as Indy's starter. In 2021, he led the league with 1,811 yards, 18 TD runs and 2,171 yards from scrimmage while sharing the league lead in total touchdowns (20).

The bad ankle cost him six games last season and he wound up rushing for 861 yards, 4.5 yards per carry and four TDs — all career lows — as Indy sputtered to a 4-12-1 mark.

Indy had been counting on Taylor to rebound this season as rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson, the No. 4 overall pick in April's draft, takes over as the starter. It appears they still want him in that role.

“I can’t say enough about him and his family. You never go in (to a season) with no problems at all," Irsay said. "We’re doing everything we can to support him and embrace him as a Colt because he’s a great young man.”



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