Two seasons ago, Jonathan Taylor almost won NFL Offensive Player of the Year. He was eclipsed by Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp’s historic season, but Taylor had a great case. He led the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns. He was named All-Pro.
And now at age 24, he’s available in a trade.
The Indianapolis Colts gave Taylor permission to seek a trade on Monday. We can argue the value of running backs in the modern landscape but if Taylor is over the injuries that plagued him last season, it’s clear he can help many teams.
Here are the five teams that would get a big boost from adding Taylor to their offense:
Most of the teams pursuing Taylor should consider themselves contenders. A team like the Arizona Cardinals would be better with Taylor, but it’s still not sniffing the playoffs. It would make no sense to trade assets for him.
The Ravens should consider themselves a contender. Baltimore is changing its offense to be more pass heavy, but they should still have a top rushing attack due to the presence of quarterback Lamar Jackson. Baltimore has never had an elite back to pair with Jackson. The Ravens have J.K. Dobbins, but he’s unhappy, too, and has never been a top 10 back. What would the Ravens offense look like with a great running back next to Jackson in the backfield? That could push Baltimore to a new level.
Miami doesn’t seem to put too much weight in the running back position, but adding a third playmaker to go with receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle is interesting. The Dolphins are reliant on those two receivers, but some pressure would be relieved off them if Taylor was in the offense. It’s not like teams could cheat up their safeties to stop the running game, because Hill and Waddle would torch them over the top. The Dolphins’ current running back crew of Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr. and rookie De’Von Achane is not blowing away anyone. It will work well enough because the offense as a whole is strong, but imagine Taylor running against all those two-high safety looks.
The Bills aren’t exactly swimming in cap space, so this seems like a long shot. But the Bills’ offense is too top heavy. Josh Allen carries most of the load, Stefon Diggs is the only skill-position player who has played at a Pro Bowl level, and there isn’t much else. Running back James Cook is an intriguing young player, Damien Harris is a solid between-the-tackles runner, but neither one is Taylor. The Bills are still in their Super Bowl window, and adding Taylor would add some much-needed balance.
The Bengals were pretty lukewarm about Joe Mixon returning this season. He finally did return, on a big pay cut. And maybe his two-year restructured deal precludes the Bengals from even thinking about making an offer for Taylor. But Mixon’s numbers were way down last season and the Bengals don’t have much behind him. Clearly, Cincinnati is a contender. The Bengals have ample cap space, though clearly they’re earmarking some of that for Joe Burrow’s contract extension. Adding Taylor to the Bengals’ high-powered offense would be an aggressive move, but it might push Cincinnati over the top in their title pursuit.
The Vikings moved on from Dalvin Cook this offseason. His former backup Alexander Mattison is set to take on lead back duties, and he hasn’t done that over a full season. He has also never shown he can be a dynamic player. The Vikings are coming off an NFC North title and seem content with their running backs, though Mattison isn’t proven and there’s not much quality depth behind him. Taylor might help the Vikings fight off inevitable regression after their fortunate 2022 success.