INDIANAPOLIS – The indestructible Jonathan Taylor is human.
Should that impact likely contract negotiations for Taylor this offseason?
As we wrote in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s historic loss to the Vikings, it was time for the Colts to shut Taylor down for the rest of this season after he again aggravated a nagging right ankle injury.
Reports indicate the Colts are going to do that, with Taylor suffering a high ankle sprain on his first touch against the Vikings.
It marked the third time this season a right ankle injury caused Taylor to miss time.
He missed Weeks 5 and 6 due to his first ankle injury. After playing two games, Taylor then missed Week 9 after an aggravation.
For that reason, it’s wise for Taylor to not play again this season, and that’s not even factoring in the Colts 4-9-1 record and being on the verge of playoff elimination.
It’s the first time Taylor has dealt with any sort of injury causing him to miss time in his football career. It is an injury that has repeated itself multiple times during the season. And it’s an injury to a body part the Colts had trouble properly diagnosing for years with Shaquille Leonard.
Assuming Taylor is done for this year, he will have played 12 games in his third NFL season. He ran for 861 yards on 192 carries, scoring 4 touchdowns, this year.
Taylor’s 2022 numbers dipped in production per carry (4.5 in 2022 after 5.5 in 2021) and production per game (78.3 in 2022 after 106.5 in 2021). His workload only shrunk by two carries per game (17.5 in 2022 after 19.5 in 2022).
Entering 2022, Taylor had never missed a game or practice since prior to high school.
This is, obviously, very rare to see Taylor sidelined.
But it also brings up a bigger question regarding Taylor: how should this injury situation impact upcoming contract negotiations?
If Chris Ballard is still around, and his precedent is at play here, Taylor was heading for a contract extension in 2023.
In the Ballard era, if a Colts player is outperforming his rookie contract, a second contract comes before the final year of his rookie deal.
That’s how the Colts handled a second contract for Nyheim Hines, who was drafted in 2018 and got an extension just prior to the start of the 2021 campaign.
For Taylor, that would be this coming offseason, with the 2023 season being the final year of his original rookie contract (Taylor has a base salary of $1.67 million for next season).
But one has to wonder how Taylor’s 2022 season will impact those contract talks.
Not only is Taylor entering this offseason needing to get a handle on his right ankle injury, but he also struggled with some ball security in Year Three. Remember, fumblers were an issue for Taylor when he left Wisconsin in 2020.
Will what has happened with Hines (a lack of usage at the running back position during his second contract) or Leonard (a persistent ankle problem after signing his extension) cause Ballard to think twice about giving Taylor top dollar.
Does it matter to the Colts they were 2-1 in games without Taylor this season?
If the Colts are purely rewarding Taylor on what he’s done in three NFL seasons, there’s plenty of merit to making him the NFL’s highest paid running back (Christian McCaffrey is currently that guy at $16 million per year).
And Taylor’s injury isn’t a torn ACL or torn Achilles, which would bring many more future questions in at a position where Father Time enters the mix much earlier than others.
Positional value always gets debated when talking about running back money.
Ballard has said though you pay good players, no matter the position.
Should that line of thinking be altered though as Taylor, who turns 24 in January, heads towards his second contract?
Whether it’s injury related, a lack of third-down impact from Taylor or the position he plays, it’s going to be very interesting to see how the Colts handle paying one of their guys on the side of Lucas Oil Stadium.