The Colts appear to have reached the point of no return with Jonathan Taylor. After initially denying the All-Pro running back's trade request, the team is reportedly now . If Indianapolis gets an offer slammed on the table that they like, that'll likely be the end of Taylor's days with the franchise.
Already, there do seem to be suitors checking in with the Colts about acquiring Taylor. However, it's going to come down to price. Indy is reportedly seeking a first-round pick in return for Taylor, which seems a bit too lofty of a price tag especially given that any team acquiring Taylor would also likely need to give him an extension as he enters the final year of his rookie deal.
But let's put all that minutiae of how a deal could be constructed aside and fast forward to what feels like the inevitable trade. What's next for Indianapolis' backfield as they usher in this new era with first-year head coach Shane Steichen and rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson, who has already been named the Week 1 starter?
Allow us to run through various scenarios.
Next man up approach?
What if the Colts do nothing? There is a scenario where the club trades Taylor for draft capital and just patches it together with the backs they currently have on the roster, sprinkled in with a number of designed runs for Richardson. While that scenario may be unlikely given the options on the free agent market, it's at least worth mentioning.
As things stand, Deon Jackson, Zack Moss, rookie Evan Hull, Kenyan Drake, Jake Funk and Jason Huntley are the backs outside of Taylor on Indy's roster. Moss is currently recovering from a broken arm and his status for Week 1 is currently up in the air, but should be a factor in this backfield for the bulk of the year. Moss was acquired by the Colts last season in a trade with the Bills and averaged 4.8 yards per attempt in eight games for the club down the stretch. That includes a stellar showing in the regular-season finale against the Texans where he rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
Beyond Moss, Drake is the most seasoned back on the roster. He appeared in 12 games (five starts) for the Ravens last season and rushed for 482 yards on 109 attempts (4.4 average). There's certainly a question regarding how much Drake has left in the tank (he's on his fourth team in as many seasons) but he could be a nice veteran to have situated in the backfield, especially with a rookie quarterback. Hull, a fifth-round pick out of Northwestern, could factor in as a pass-catching option for the Colts after hauling in 88 balls over his final two collegiate seasons.
Again, this isn't the ideal scenario for Indy, but there's a path for this Island of Misfit backs plan to be an option.
However, it only works effectively if Richardson is truly the "lead back" of this group, which isn't out of the question. Steichen is coming over after headlining an Eagles offense that saw Jalen Hurts lead all quarterbacks in rushing attempts with 165 in 2022. Of those rushes, 95 of them were on designed runs, according to TruMedia. That's 21 more designed rushing attempts than the next quarterback last year, so the coach is certainly willing to draw up plays for his quarterback if he has that skill set, which Richardson does. The No. 4 overall pick is 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, and ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Free agent targets
We can file this under the most likely route that the Colts will go down if they do ship Taylor for picks. Even if they want to deploy Richardson on designed runs, they can't give him the workload of a traditional back because of how important he is to the team's prospects beyond 2023 as their franchise quarterback. So, more bodies have to come aboard.
Hunt visited with the Colts earlier this summer, but Nick Chubb over the last four seasons. Hunt could give the Colts a back who not only can work as a pure runner, but also can be a sure-handed pass catcher with 211 receptions on his résumé.. However, if the club does move on from Taylor, they do become an extremely attractive destination for any free agent backs with north of 200 carries suddenly up for grabs. Hunt is still only 28 years old and doesn't have as much wear and tear on his tires as a normal back entering his seventh year in the league would typically have. That's thanks to his work as the secondary option in Cleveland's backfield behind
As for Fournette, he provides a similar versatility to Hunt as both a runner and receiver out of the backfield. He started nine games for Tampa Bay last season and averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, but did catch 73 of his 83 targets for 523 yards en route to his second consecutive 1,000-yard season from scrimmage.
Both of these backs shouldn't have a heavy price tag attached to them and would instantly raise the ceiling of the Colts backfield in the aftermath of a potential Taylor trade.
Could Colts acquire a RB in Taylor trade?
The Miami Dolphins have been a team . They're also a team that does have its fair share of backs already on the roster, albeit without the ceiling that Taylor would bring. While getting the most amount of draft capital possible should be GM Chris Ballard's main priority, he should also take a gander at some of Miami's running backs and see if he can get one as a throw-in.
Specifically, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. would be the veterans worth asking about. They are right in the middle of what Indianapolis could add in free agency and what they already have sitting on their roster. Mostert has tremendous speed and is coming off a 2022 season where he rushed for 891 yards on 4.9 yards per carry. He also had 31 catches for 202 yards. His age would be the primary concern as he's 31, but he is a cheap option with a base salary of just $1.165 million for 2023. The same logic applies for the 27-year-old Wilson, who has a $1.08 base salary this year.
The swing-for-the-fences move, however, would be to somehow pry third-round rookie De'Von Achane out of Miami. Achane would jive much better with the youthful direction that the Colts are heading down and could grow alongside Richardson, which is an appealing pairing for this rebuild. The Texans A&M product averaged 5.6 yards per carry for the Aggies last year and is also a capable pass catcher. It is worth noting that he is currently dealing with a shoulder injury, but, so long as that's not serious, Dolphins GM Chris Grier would be wise to try and squeak him in (Why do they need him if they are getting Taylor anyway?).
If not the Dolphins, any trade partner that the Colts do swing a deal surrounding Taylor with, it'd behoove the franchise to look at their roster to see if there are any backs they can get in return in a deal, particularly if it doesn't impact the draft pick compensation.