The contract dispute between Jonathan Taylor and the Indianapolis Colts has been one of the bigger curveballs thrown at fantasy managers this off-season. After weeks of ongoing discussion and disputed injury designations, the situation escalated to its peak when the Colts openly gave Taylor permission to seek a trade earlier this week. This threw the fantasy community into an outright panic as we collectively tried to determine where Jonathan Taylor might land and what impact that would have on his outlook in fantasy.
Through much of the off-season, the AFC East has been the center of the free-agent running back universe, as all four teams have been tied to nearly every top-tier back on the market. This is further evidenced by the fact that two of the best available options have already landed in the division, with Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliot inking deals with the Jets and the Patriots respectively. With the Bills and the Dolphins presumed to have interest in acquiring the fourth-year back out of Wisconsin, let’s explore how each of those deals could get done, and what impact it would have on Taylor in the upcoming season.
There are three key attributes that any would-be suitor will need to possess to be considered a viable landing spot for Taylor. They must have both the desire to sign Taylor to an above-market contract as well as the cap room to do so. They’ll need abundant draft capital to send back to the Colts, who have anchored their asking price at a first-round pick. Lastly, they need to believe they are close enough to contending for a title that an upgrade at the most commoditized position in football will vault them into the ranks of the “Super Bowl contenders.”
Will the Buffalo Bills Trade For Jonathan Taylor?
Let’s start with the Bills, who currently hold the third-shortest odds to acquire Jonathan Taylor at +500. Buffalo is widely thought to be “a running back away” from Super Bowl contention, and clearly has an interest in fortifying the position after bringing in both Damien Harris and Latavious Murray this off-season. On the other hand, they had ample opportunity to sign better running backs than the ones they did but opted not to spend at the position. Even if they wanted to bring in Taylor, Buffalo is 30th in available cap space with just $2.25M left to spend. Additionally, James Cook has been one of the stars of camp for the Bills and is still under a team-friendly rookie deal for several years to come. Taylor would be the epitome of a luxury acquisition for the Bills, and I think it very unlikely that we will see him traded to western New York.
Will the Miami Dolphins Trade For Jonathan Taylor?
The Dolphins are a much more interesting proposition. Miami was in the Dalvin Cook sweepstakes until the 11th hour and reportedly has already been in contact with the Colts regarding Taylor. Miami is very well positioned to invest in a sizable contract for Taylor, with their $11.5M in cap space, and has historically been more than willing to move draft capital to go get their guy. The Dolphins themselves, as well as many local and national pundits, believe that they are very close to contending and their pass-happy offense would be nicely balanced by an elite runner. The plan at running back for the Dolphins is comprised of some combination of oft-injured veterans Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson with rookie De’Von Achane offering a change of pace. Put differently, Jonathan Taylor would immediately command the lion’s share of work in the Miami backfield, and the thought of Taylor running in a Shanahan scheme is the stuff fantasy dreams are made of. These factors combine to make the Dolphins the odds-on favorite to acquire Taylor, at +200, and one of the few locations that would improve his fantasy stock.
While it’s fun to daydream about the various places that could trade for Taylor, the reality of the situation is that it’s still very unlikely that a team actually pulls the trigger. The entire market for running backs has dried to dust, and it is safe to assume that Taylor would be expecting a contract from his new team that no other running back has been has been able to secure this season. The big takeaway here is that, whether or not he ends up being traded, Taylor is very likely to fill a lead-back role somewhere for the entirety of the upcoming season. Now is the time to take advantage of his slipping ADP and acquire him on the cheap.