The Miami Dolphins’ interest in disgruntled Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor was never a secret. But a great shock to many came earlier this week when the Colts couldn’t find a trade they deemed adequate, and it was reported that Green Bay was the mystery team trying to scoop up Taylor.
With Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon holding down the top two spots on the depth chart at the position, this created a head-scratcher. Brian Gutekunst has a couple of valid reasons for pursuing Taylor, and the timing is perfect.
Green Bay has the youngest roster in the NFL. Why does this matter? Getting Taylor wouldn’t come cheap. He’s expecting a contract extension that would reset the market at his position. The Packers currently have an offense loaded with players on rookie deals.
Green Bay drafted tight ends Tucker Kraft and Luke Musgrave this spring. Musgrave is expected to start, and both are on rookie deals. Even quarterback Jordan Love is in a prove-it contract over the next two seasons.
Gutekunst is looking around and seeing a youthful offense. He likely views the possibility of adding Taylor as the perfect time to add a critical piece to the formula while not tying up all of Green Bay’s cap space. Taylor is 24 and about to enter the prime of his career, making him the cherry on top.
On paper, when you ignore what Green Bay has in place at running back and look at the surrounding pieces on offense, adding Taylor appears to be a move that wouldn’t bring about many questions unless you are completely opposed to running backs getting big contracts.This isn’t fantasy land, though. And what Green Bay has at running back matters. Still, when putting aside biased thoughts, it makes sense for Gutekunst to pursue Taylor.
AJ Dillon‘s contract expires at the end of this season, and he’ll be a free agent. Dillon is a fan-favorite and thunder to Jones’ lightning. Still, with no extension on the horizon, it’s possible Dillon is playing elsewhere in 2024.
Jones restructured his contract this offseason to take less money to help the larger good of the team. If doing so ends up helping bring Taylor in, it’s understandable that Jones would be disgruntled. However, Jones’ contract expires at the end of the 2024 campaign. If Green Bay really wanted to, they could bite the bullet and cut ties after this season.
Jones taking less was an admirable move, which he did because of his love for the organization. He made no secrets about that back in April, per NFL.com.
This is home for me. Those guys in the locker room, those are my brothers. The people upstairs, they believe in me, and they believed in me since I’ve gotten here. It just made sense, deal-wise. The market for running backs, there was a huge gap between $16 million and Christian McCaffrey, who’s at $12 (million). I wouldn’t say pay cut because I never made $11 million in my career, so this is still the most I’ve ever made, and it still has me as the second-highest paid for the backs, so it matched up with the market.
Like Dillon, Jones also is a fan favorite. But Green Bay has shown in the past they prefer to cut ties with players a year early rather than a year late, even if it doesn’t go over well with everyone. Jones, 28, is getting up there in terms of shelf life for a running back.
The Packers being the mystery team for Taylor was surprising. They have two pretty solid backs and Gutekunst’s willingness to reset the running back market was eye-opening in some capacity.
When considering everything else, it isn’t as surprising. Gutekunst has repeatedly stated, like a robot, that Green Bay always wants to be in conversations like this when star players become available. Most people have rolled their eyes at this because the Packers seldom, if ever, push those chips into the middle of the table. The other factor is Jones’ contract and how much tread is left on his tires coupled with Dillon’s expiring contract. Sprinkle in that the Packers have a bunch of young talent on the offense at skill positions and bringing in Taylor on a revamped deal makes far more sense.
What does Taylor’s contract look like? That’s uncertain at the moment. Whether or not the Packers would pick the phone back up and make a call is to be determined. One thing that is certain: If Gutekunst is willing to reset the market at running back with a back like Taylor, this would be the perfect time to strike.