Jonathan Taylor is still weeks away from a potential return to game action, but the Colts' star running back is teasing his progress, recently working out at team facilities. Once Taylor is eligible to be activated from the physically unable to perform list, however, it remains to be seen whether he'll suit up for Indianapolis at all.
Taylor spent most of the offseason feuding with the Colts over alleged injury mismanagement and an unwillingness by Indy to negotiate a long-term contract. Team owner Jim Irsay reportedly even granted Taylor permission to seek a trade partner in the lead-up to final roster cuts, only for the club to keep the Pro Bowler on PUP, guaranteeing at least a four-game absence.
Now, halfway through his required absence, it's worth reassessing Taylor's market. Several teams have seen their own backfields battered by injuries early in 2023, potentially incentivizing the Colts to shop the RB once more. Here are some teams who could emerge as logical suitors ahead of the Oct. 31 in-season trade deadline:
How desperate are they to save their haphazard Deshaun Watson-led offense, which just lost centerpiece Nick Chubb for the rest of 2023? Probably pretty desperate, considering how much pressure's on Watson to deliver. Coach Kevin Stefanski has Kareem Hunt back onboard to chip in, but he also let Hunt sit at home, unsigned, for the whole offseason. Taylor, meanwhile, is equivalent to Chubb in terms of workhorse material, and could allow fill-in starter Jerome Ford to remain change-of-pace relief.
Tampa Bay has enjoyed a surprising 2-0 start thanks to Baker Mayfield controlling the ball and Todd Bowles' defense doing its thing. But the run game has been lacking -- only three teams are averaging fewer yards per carry -- and veteran backup Chase Edmonds just landed on injured reserve. Taylor could push Rachaad White back into the secondary role he held alongside Leonard Fournette while giving the Bucs a potential long-term building block at just 24 years old.
Why stop linking Miami to big-name backs? The Dolphins flirted with Dalvin Cook all offseason, then reportedly explored a trade for Taylor just before the season. Raheem Mostert still has elite speed in their backfield, but durability is still a glaring concern with all of their ball-carriers, including banged-up reserves Jeff Wilson, De'Von Achane and Salvon Ahmed. At 2-0, with QB Tua Tagovailoa an early MVP candidate, they could once again justify adding a cherry on top of a super-speedy sundae.
They gave Miles Sanders decent money to be the RB1, but he's struggled early, averaging 3.6 yards per carry, and is now nursing an injury. Even if Sanders were thriving, they're in dire need of reinforcements for rookie QB Bryce Young, who's already banged up himself. There might be none better than Taylor, who has a history with coach Frank Reich from their days in Indy and has the kind of game-changing vision that could help offset Carolina's offensive line issues.