Colts sign Jonathan Taylor to $42 million extension
INDIANAPOLIS – Chris Ballard sat in front of the media as the regular season approached and talked expansively about the Indianapolis Colts’ fractured relationship with their star running back.
Jonathan Taylor wanted a contract extension, or he wanted out.
Ballard admitted the stalemate with arguably his best player “sucks,’’ but tried to offer a calming voice.
“Relationships are repairable,’’ he said in late August. “They’re repairable.
“Guys get emotional and take a stance. You’ve got to be able to be able to work through those.’’
Done. There’s every reason to believe a “cooling off period’’ between the sides was instrumental in the resolution.
An extension that made complete sense for Taylor and the Colts resulted in the 2021 NFL rushing champion receiving a three-year, $42 million extension with $26.5 million guaranteed. It makes him one the NFL’s highest-paid running backs, and ties him to the Colts through 2026.
Sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed the extension shortly after the Colts added Taylor to their active roster, and in time for Sunday’s meeting with the Tennessee Titans in Lucas Oil Stadium. He last stepped foot on the field for a game Dec. 17 at Minnesota.
Taylor likely will see some level of playing time against the Titans. But the extension was all about ensuring a long-term working relationship between one of the league’s premier running backs and rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson.
Owner Jim Irsay described it as potentially “a perfect storm’’ for the franchise.
As explosive running back – Taylor has nine rushes of at least 40 yards in 43 career games – with an explosive quarterback. Richardson has three of the Colts’ six longest runs this season, including touchdowns of 18 and 15 yards.
Richardson also is eager to share the backfield with Taylor.
“I know he’s a great player and I know I can do some things pretty well,’’ he said this week. “Just trying to combine those two things.
“I can only imagine what it’s like, but we don’t see until it actually happens. We’ll see and I’m excited.’’
Taylor met with the media Thursday for the first time since June. He declined to discuss his long-term future with the Colts.
But considering Saturday’s announcement, he had to know an extension was imminent.
“I don’t think it matters if I’m saying I’m committed or not, because I’m here,’’ Taylor said prior to his first full practice since Dec. 15. “If somebody wasn’t committed, they wouldn’t be here.
“Right now, I’m here.’’
The extension provides Taylor and the Colts with clarity.
It also brings to an end a tumultuous stretch for the Colts and Taylor.
Since last playing against the Vikings in week 15, Taylor dealt with Jan. 25 surgery on his right ankle, a lengthy rehab process and months of discord with the team that included a trade request when an extension wasn’t offered. He was in the final year of his rookie contract that would pay him $4.3 million this season, well below the market value for a player of his caliber.
In 2021, Taylor led the NFL in rushing with a franchise-record 1,811 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns.
Taylor initially seemed content with his contract status.
“I’m under contract here for four years,’’ he said in April. “I put pen to paper . . . I have an obligation to them, but things will happen naturally.’’
Soon, his stance changed.
“First season I was drafted, I’m like, ‘I want to retire a Colt,’’ he said in mid-June following the end of the team’s offseason work. “Hopefully the organization sees that the same as I do.’’
An extension was foremost in his mind. Taylor was disturbed by a decreasing market for top running backs.
“You look at the past and guys who have shown their value on and off the field tend to stay here,’’ he said. “You just want to be treated fairly. And not even fairly. You want to be appreciated for what you bring to the team. Seeing guys fight, you just hope that things work out for them. You see why guys ask for trades.
“You just hope the organization sees that value and everything you’re trying to provide, not only to the team but to the community. . . . Hopefully they can see the value.’’
Irsay and Ballard did.
The hefty extension to Taylor follows similar commitments to Quenton Nelson, Shaquille Leonard, Braden Smith, Nyheim Hines, Grover Stewart and others.
Ballard addressed the team’s practice of rewarding players heading into the final year of their contract in late August, but added “every situation is a little different.’’
He noted the team finished 4-12-1 last season, has a revamped coaching staff and Taylor was coming off ankle surgery.
Cooler heads prevailed.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.
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