INDIANAPOLIS – Get your popcorn ready, we’ve got a very public Colts contract debate for the first time in years.
What Jonathan Taylor and Chris Ballard were appearing to do somewhat civilly was taken to another level on Wednesday night.
That was thanks to Jim Irsay firing off this tweet, followed by a response from Taylor’s agent, Malik Kawa, later in the night.
Especially under Ballard’s regime, it’s extremely rare to see such a contract debate reach the level this one has.
Taylor, clearly, is frustrated by how the Colts are valuing him behind the scenes, and also how the NFL is defining the top of the running back market.
It’s why seeing Taylor pop up on the physically unable to perform list brought some questions this week.
Didn’t Jim Irsay say Taylor was “healed up” a few weeks back?
Is Taylor’s high ankle sprain from last season, which led to January surgery–after some debate if a procedure was even necessary—really requiring rehab lasting more than 6 months?
For now, Taylor is on the PUP list, observing practice in a No. 28 t-shirt jersey on Wednesday. Shane Steichen isn’t offering any details on a return date. And the expectation is Taylor won’t meet the media until he comes off that PUP list.
Irsay’s tweet, as wild it is to see an owner reach to Twitter for discussions that almost exclusively occurs behind the scenes, has plenty of merit.
Running back outage around the NFL right now has little substance in their arguments about a collectively bargained franchise tag or value at a position that isn’t viewed in the same light as it was 5-to-10 years ago, as the league continues to get more and more pass happy.
And Irsay’s tweet is probably more of him trying to once again defend the owners/shield in a public forum, than directly speak to Taylor. Still though, given what’s happening with his star running back, it’s a bad look, and led to Taylor’s agent feeling the need to respond.
Still though, the Colts situation sitting on nearly $20 million in cap space and with Anthony Richardson as the future is different.
The Colts cannot skimp on skill position support for Richardson. They cannot take shortcuts in building around a QB needing massive amounts of development.
If the Colts are going to draw a hard line in the sand with Taylor, they should have thought about that when handing out extensions to other “less valued” positions. Or even thought about when spending a 2nd round pick on Taylor in 2020.
If you’re going to have hesitancy about giving a 2nd round pick a contract extension, shouldn’t that impact spending such a valuable resource on a player who is going to be with you for only 4 years?
Taylor is scheduled for make $4.3 million on the final year of his rookie deal this fall.
Earlier this week, even Chris Ballard offered some public hesitancy when talking about a potential extension with Taylor.
“Our history is really good (in re-signing our own), but saying that, we’re coming off a four-win season, we have a new coaching staff. So, we’ll kind of let it play out as it does and make those decisions when we need to make those decisions,” Ballard said.
“The market is what the market is, but saying that, like I’ve always told you all, you pay good players. You pay guys that are going to help you win regardless of the position. We think very highly of Jonathan. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a great season as a team (last year) and he’s coming off the injury, but Jonathan is a great player and he’s a great person. So, I think that will play out over time and work out the way it should either way.”
Another aspect to this worth pointing out is Taylor’s agent is also that of Shaquille Leonard.
Back in 2021 it was Leonard missing the first 10 practices of training camp, making his return just 3 days after he put pen to paper on a contract extension in the $100 million range.
Did Leonard’s health/pending extension back then have any correlation in missing more than half of camp?
Does that apply at all here with Taylor?
How all of this is going to play out with Taylor is going to be fascinating.
And there will be no shortage of eyes on it.
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