In a recent report from Adam Schefter, he reports that the Indianapolis Colts asked for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson in return during their trade conversations centered around All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor.
In his own report, Ian Rapoport would add that the Packers offered two mid-round picks for Taylor, but no players were apart of their trade package.
Late last month, it was reported by ESPN that the Packers had “legitimate interest” in trading for Taylor. When GM Brian Gutekunst was asked about the team inquiring about Taylor, he said the Packers try to be in on every conversation and if there is the opportunity to make the team better, they’ll explore those opportunities.
From a pure football perspective, I’m sure just about every team would love to have Taylor, who has established himself as one of the top backs in football. In 2021, he led the NFL in rushing with over 1,800 yards and also led the league in rushing touchdowns with 18. He’s also been a factor in the Colts’ passing game as well.
The Packers already have one of the better running back duos in football behind Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, but their interest in adding Taylor would be about the future more than 2023. Jones is set to turn 29-years-old later this season and with a cap hit north of $17 million next season, this could be his last in Green Bay. Dillon, meanwhile, is set to be an unrestricted free agent this upcoming offseason.
Taylor is still just 24 years old. Relying heavily on the run game is also a key element of the LaFleur offense. Consistent success on the ground will help open up opportunities in the passing game downfield, specifically off play-action, and take some of the burden off of the quarterback’s shoulders. The San Francisco offense, which the LaFleur system stems from, found a lot of success last season after acquiring Christian McCaffrey, who helped the 49ers’ offense, led by Brock Purdy, reach the NFC Championship Game.
However, in acquiring Taylor, who is in the final year of his rookie deal, the Packers would have to offer him a new deal, that would likely be near the top of the running back market. For reference, McCaffrey is at the top of that list earning $16 million per year. Alvin Kamara is second earning $15 million on average, and Derrick Henry third at $12.5 million, according to Over the Cap.
By extending Rashan Gary, the Packers could free up enough cap space to absorb Taylor’s $4.3 million base salary for this season. They also gain some salary cap flexiblity in 2024 with Aaron Rodgers’ contract completely off the books, not to mention that this is the youngest team in the NFL with quite a few inexpensive rookie deals. So from a cap perspective, they probably could make the addition of Taylor work. However, does that mean they should?
Teams in recent years have become increasingly unwilling to pay top dollar at the running back position, given that the production lost from moving on from a veteran can often be sometimes replaced – or close to it – in the draft with an inexpensive rookie contract. The cap hits at the running back position for the last several Super Bowl winners illustrate that paying top-dollar for a running back isn’t a must for a winning formula. In short, the cap space used to extend Taylor could be put to use elsewhere.
For now, talks have cooled off. Along with the Packers, the Miami Dolphins also had interest in Taylor as well. But with all that said, if Watson is the Colts’ asking price, then no deal is going to get done. Taylor is currently on the PUP list and will miss the first four games, but is expected to be activated come Week 5 when he is eligible. The NFL’s trade deadline is October 31st.