As trade rumors circulate, fans wait and wonder, if anything, will happen to Jonathan Taylor. The former Wisconsin Badger is set to go into his fourth and final year of his rookie contract with Indianapolis and is looking to get paid after a fairly solid start to his career. Though he dealt with injuries last year, Taylor led the league in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and attempts in 2021. At just 24 years old, Taylor has staked his claim as the best young running back in the league. His play on the field speaks for itself and he has a solid argument to make. However, when it comes time to write the new paycheck, Jim Irsay and the Colts don’t want to lock in Taylor… Or at least at the price tag he desires. Instead, the Colts granted the disgruntled back the option to seek a trade. With multiple teams looking to potentially trade for the All-Pro halfback, Minnesota should not be one of them.
Breaking Down the Situation
As the running back market continues to see unprecedented growth at every position except their own, it’s created an incredibly soft market where teams are not looking to extend star backs to massive contracts. When you look at the numbers, no position is more stagnant than the running back position (which you can read here). Players like Dalvin Cook, Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, and now Taylor struggle to get an extension while most either accept the franchise tag or head to free agency, hoping another team will meet their asking price. In today’s day and age, it’s a parasitic relationship in regard to running backs and ownership. Currently, few teams are looking to trade for a back, but early reports indicate a handful of suitors. Whether real or not, truly the whole situation creates a bad look. Taylor, like many, struggle to get market value though he’s provided ample reason he should. Unfortunately, the league continues to diminish the value of this position.
If Taylor wants to get paid top dollar and reset the running back market, that’s no easy feat. Adrian Peterson led all running backs in average annual value (AAV) back in 2011 with a record-breaking contract of 6 years, $85 million or an AAV of $14.2 million. In over a decade, only five players have topped this number and if you take out Le’Veon Bell’s one-year franchise tag in 2018, that number drops to four: Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, and Todd Gurley. The current high value for AAV is McCaffrey’s at just north of $16 million. A market reset for Taylor would be in the ballpark of 5 years, $82.5 million, an AAV of $16.5 million. Minnesota could fit that in with their current cap situation so why not?
Crunching the Numbers
Here’s the reality, a trade for Taylor is not just a one-year rental, it will come with a new contract and loss of draft capital. Currently, sixteen teams in the NFL cannot afford to add a $16.5 million dollar contract to their books in 2024. Can front offices move things around or back load contracts? Yes, absolutely! However, the team that acquires Taylor will have to give up something AND pay the young superstar. Minnesota currently has around $34 million in cap space for 2024. That said, second-year GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah still has to find a way to extend both TJ Hockenson and Justin Jefferson. Take into account both players will most likely want to reset their respective markets and you’re looking at around $50 million in AAV for two players neither named Taylor. Add in a potential Dalton Risner signing (which you can read here) and Minnesota will quickly lose that cap space. Taylor is a great football player and would undoubtedly make a team better. However, Minnesota is not rich enough to bite that bullet. Teams such as the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are better suitors for what Taylor may be looking for.