Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is one week away from being able to return from the Physically Unable to Perform list, and his trade options are looking slimmer today than they were before the season began.
Sources tell CBS Sports that while Taylor is still interested in a trade out of Indianapolis, a rash of running back injuries combined with potentially interested teams moving on without Taylor through two weeks have not helped his options. The best option -- if it's still an option for Taylor -- may be to repair the relationship with the Colts.
Several sources have told CBS Sports they never believed the Colts had a true intention to trade him. Considering where the running back market is today, Indianapolis receiving something equivalent to a first-round pick was never going to materialize.
"Did he ever have any legitimate places to go?" one executive asked rhetorically.
There's been a spate of injuries around the league at the position. Saquon Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain last week that kept him out of Week 3's game against San Francisco and likely beyond. J.K. Dobbins tore his Achilles in Week 1. Nick Chubb suffered a gruesome knee injury that will keep him out the rest of the season.
Despite these injuries, there's been no increased interest in Taylor. The Ravens elevated Melvin Gordon from the practice squad and this week had veteran backs Ronald Jones, James Robinson and Kenyan Drake in for workouts.
Furthermore, the teams that could have pursued Taylor before the start of the season are less likely to do so now. The Chicago Bears appeared perfect suitors to trade for Taylor and pair him with their young quarterback, but the team had no interest in paying the trade price for Taylor and then paying him. That was before they started 0-2.
The Dolphins' high-flying offense is humming with Tua Tagovailoa getting the ball out of his hands at a historically fast rate, so sending future picks worth anything is even less necessary today than it was in August.
And now that the Packers won't be getting an extra first-round pick from the Jets, their 2024 draft picks are even more valuable to them than when they kicked the tires with the Colts amid the near-certainty that Aaron Rodgers would play 65 percent of the snaps.
The conclusion of Week 4 is just another soft deadline between the Colts and Taylor, though. Just like the deadline to find a trade partner at roster cutdowns, the first day the team can activate Taylor from PUP is just as flimsy a deadline. If a team wanted to send a first-round pick to Indianapolis right now, Taylor would be eligible to play for them in Week 5.
The real deadline is -- and has always been -- the trade deadline on Oct. 31. If Taylor isn't dealt by then, he'll need to accrue six games on the roster in 2023 in order to earn a credited year in the league. But he still wouldn't earn his contract freedom just yet.
The Colts have been unwilling to promise they won't tag Taylor next spring. The franchise tag for a running back would cost around $12 million, and Indianapolis would get two first-round picks in return for Taylor if any team offered him a deal it wouldn't match.
"The bigger question is, how do you repair that relationship? What does repairing a relationship with Jonathan Taylor look like?" one personnel executive asked. "He has to play this year to get his season to get to FA. Does that mean (they're) going to franchise him? If so, are we back at square one next year?"
What's clear is that Colts general manager Chris Ballard believes the relationship is repairable, even if the organization won't go as far as to signing Taylor to an extension in the final year of his rookie contract.
"Look, even when it gets hard, I won't quit on a relationship. I won't do it," Ballard said last month. "I think too much of the young man. I think too much of what he's given our organization and how hard he's played for us."
As another (soft) deadline nears, the finish line could very well still be out far out in the distance.