The Indianapolis Colts reportedly permitted RB Jonathan Taylor to seek a trade on Monday night. Minutes after that report, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reported the Miami Dolphins would explore a trade for the embattled running back.
Miami’s entire offseason has been filled with potential pursuits of running backs. The latest — Dalvin Cook — ended up signing with the division rival New York Jets. So, will this time be any different?
Let’s look at the case for and against acquiring Taylor to remove my biases.
Why the Dolphins Should Trade for Taylor
We can sit here all day and discuss the nuances of running back value, but it won’t change that Taylor is an excellent football player.
Last season was still a down year for Jonathan Taylor, as he only played in 11 games due to injury. However, he still had 861 yards on 4.5 yards per attempt. That’s not bad, considering the Colts’ disastrous quarterback situation put the opposing defense’s focus on Taylor all season.
Given how badly everything went for the Colts last season, some would argue it’s fair to throw it out entirely when evaluating Taylor and use his 2021 numbers instead.
In 2021, Taylor led the league in rushing yards and touchdowns with 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns, respectively. Those are game-changing, team-altering numbers. Possibly even more impressively, Taylor did it all while averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
Miami’s last 1,000-yard rusher was Jay Ajayi in 2016, who racked up 1,272 yards. Since then, Raheem Mostert’s 891 yards from last season is the team’s highest mark. The stretch from 2016-2022 includes the 2019 season when Ryan Fitzpatrick led the team in rushing during his age-37 season.
So yes, it’s probably fair to say Taylor would be Miami’s best back since Ricky Williams.
Speaking of age, Taylor is unique among many running backs on the trade block — he’s only 24. Maybe Miami didn’t want to pay Cook because he was leaving his prime years. That wouldn’t be the case with Taylor.
Miami is trying to win a Super Bowl right now. Taylor profiles as an immediate upgrade and could be essential for the team’s next winning window.
What’s not to love? Well…
Why the Dolphins Should Not Trade for Taylor
There are many hurdles the Dolphins would have to clear to justify trading for Jonathan Taylor. The first is trade compensation. The Colts are reportedly seeking at least a first-round pick for Taylor.
They’re entitled to seek that, but they won’t get it. For reference, the Carolina Panthers traded Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers for 2023 second, third, and fourth-round picks and a 2024 fifth-round pick.
Because of his elite receiving profile, McCaffrey is much closer than Taylor to the modern-day running back. He didn’t even fetch a first-round pick.
With that said, the Colts probably won’t take less than at least two Day 2 picks for Taylor. That is a pretty high price, especially considering Miami’s roster is already top-heavy. The Dolphins need Day 2 picks to help maintain their roster integrity, and they already traded their 2024 third-rounder.
Even if the two teams agree on compensation, signing Jonathan Taylor to a new contract is the biggest hurdle. It’s why he wants out of Indianapolis in the first place. The Colts won’t make him the highest-paid running back in the NFL.
Taylor was a second-round pick, so 2023 is the last year of his rookie deal, and he doesn’t have a fifth-year option. They’d have to extend him if Miami acquired him and wanted him to stay longer than one season.
Besides that, it would be surprising to see Taylor accept a trade to a team that doesn’t want to extend him right off the bat.
People like to argue the objectivity of running back value, but there are no arguing facts. And the truth is, running back value in the NFL has plummeted.
Cook got $7 million guaranteed from the Jets in August, and it was the most yearly guaranteed value of any free agent running back deal signed this summer. Saquon Barkley, arguably the league’s best back, held out all offseason just to get $2 million in extra incentives.
The situation at running back is dire. The value has evaporated to the point that the running back franchise tag has decreased.
Taylor wants to reset the average annual value market, led by McCaffrey, at just more than $16 million. In this scenario, the Dolphins would have to move premium draft capital and pay a top-of-the-market contract at the only position that is actually decreasing in value.
There’s just no logical reason for Miami — a team with a lot of big contracts and a potential cap squeeze next season — to be the ones to pay Taylor. There’s probably no way to give Taylor the contract he wants and retain someone like Christian Wilkins.
It’s also important to note that Miami’s running backs aren’t bad. Mostert, Jeff Wilson, De’Von Achane, and Salvon Ahmed comprise a respectable group of runners.
Yes, Taylor is better than all of them. However, is he that much better to justify paying above the market rate in trade and contract compensation? Probably not. Miami’s running-game struggles had nothing to do with running back effectiveness last season.
They just didn’t run the ball much. Mostert finished with 891 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per attempt, which was good for sixth among running backs. If the Dolphins commit to running the ball this season, there’s no reason Mostert can’t eclipse 1,000 yards.
None of this covers the fact that Taylor is coming off an injury, and his medicals are questionable. He hasn’t done much this offseason and already has some tread on the tires.
The Dolphins don’t need Taylor, and he would cost an exuberant amount of resources.
It’s obvious where I come down on this debate. There is just too much evidence against paying running backs to ignore.
However, it’s essential to maintain a level head. Trading for Jonathan Taylor would not be a disaster. He’s an incredible talent still in his prime. The Dolphins are in a winning window and have a top-heavy roster.
It wouldn’t be too surprising to see them go all in since they’ve essentially already done that — what’s a little more? If Taylor helps Miami win a Super Bowl, how much they paid won’t matter.
All of that is true, but it’s not a good way to build an NFL team. Miami has made big trades and signings at the right positions (Jalen Ramsey, Tyreek Hill, Terron Armstead), and there’s little reason to change that thinking now.
I wouldn’t trade for Taylor, but I understand why Miami would. We’ll just have to see which way they end up going. Either way, the Dolphins are in a good spot.