ESPN Asks if Extending Jonathan Taylor was Right Move

ESPN Asks if Extending Jonathan Taylor was Right Move

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell questions if extending Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan contract was the right move.

There’s no questioning the value Jonathan Taylor provided the Indianapolis Colts his first-two years with the team. He led the NFL in rushing in 2021 by a large margin but was injured much of last season.

Taylor was one of several running backs looking for a contract extension in the offseason, and he is the only big-name running back to get one.

Bill Barnwell on ESPN+ examined the running back situation for 2024 across the NFL and makes the argument that paying running backs top dollar is a tougher argument than ever.

“For all of the amazement that those seven non-Taylor backs weren’t able to land the deals they were hoping for this offseason, it’s hard to argue any of them have been vindicated by their 2023 production,” concluded Barnwell at the end of his piece.

“Fournette gets an incomplete grade by virtue of not playing, Ekeler missed time with injuries and Elliott has lived up to his contract with the Patriots, but the other four have all taken a significant step backward from what they did last season, let alone what they were accomplishing at their peaks.”

Barnwell argued that signing Taylor to what amounts to a two-year extension for $26.5 million with a pair of club options was a mistake.

“General manager Chris Ballard also built an offense in which Anthony Richardson and his top five pass-catchers at wide receiver and tight end are all on rookie deals,” wrote Barnwell. “Even backup signal-caller Gardner Minshew is making only $3.5 million. Opportunity cost is a thing, but if any team can afford to guarantee a running back two franchise tags right now, it’s the Colts.”

Had the Colts opted for back-to-back franchise tags it would have saved them about $2 million over two years and mitigated the team’s risk.

However, what Barnwell fails to point out is there was no guarantee Taylor would have returned to the Colts at all under a first franchise tag.

The Colts can still move on from Taylor following the 2024 season with a dead-cap hit of just $5.1 million, and to do that it cost them $26.5 million in guaranteed money.

One could make the argument that trading Taylor for the best offer and riding with Zack Moss would have been the better move, but it’s a tougher argument that having a disgruntled player on a one-year deal was the right move for the Colts.

The scope of Barnwell’s column was taking a look at the running back position in general. He came to the conclusion with the likes of Derrick HenryTony PollardD’Andre SwiftJ.K. DobbinsAJ Dillon, along with… Zack Moss, set to be free agents at the end of the season, it’s only going to get tougher for running backs to get paid.

On that point he appears to be right on the money… no pun intended. The Colts will face a similar question this offseason, more money for Moss or roll with Taylor and a cheaper option?

With Taylor under contract for the next four-years, the Colts will be negotiating from a position of strength.

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