Taylor, the No. 41 overall pick in the draft in 2020, is mired in a dispute with his front office that has spilled into the public forum. Colts owner Jim Irsay has weighed in on the matter, and the team has given Taylor’s camp permission to seek out a trade partner.
Albert Breer of The Monday Morning Quarterback thinks the Bears could be in play.
“If you look at the way that they played offense last year, they’ve got a cut down on the amount they’re putting on Justin Fields in the running game,” Breer said on “The Rich Eisen Show” on August 22. “They just have to, and what better way to do that than bring in a top-five running back?”
Jonathan Taylor Would on Justin Fields’ Workload, Analyst Says
Bears Have Connection to Jonathan Taylor
“[Bears head coach] Matt Eberflus was with Jonathan Taylor in Indianapolis,” Breer said. “The general manager in Chicago, Ryan Poles, worked with [Colts general manager] Chris Ballard for years in Kansas City; they’re very close.”
— NFL (@NFL) November 13, 2022
Notably, defensive coordinator Alan Williams came with Eberflus from Indianapolis and the team has signed multiple former Green Bay Packers players to help implement offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s scheme. It’s not out of the ordinary to operate this way but it does illustrate their willingness to do so.
Fields ranked 35th in carries overall and second among quarterbacks last season.
He set the Bears’ single-season franchise record in rushing yards last season, leading the team in that category and finishing with the second-most rushing yards by a quarterback in NFL history. It’s a feat that he has openly said he has little interest in topping this coming season while also vowing to be the Bears’ first 4,000-yard passer which would mean less work on the ground.
Jonathan Taylor Comes With Questions, Concerns
The Bears led the NFL in rushing yards as a team but Taylor’s production would have led the backfield despite him missing more games than either of presumed starter Khalil Herbert or last year’s starter, David Montgomery, who signed with the Detroit Lions in free agency.
Taylor, 24, rushed for 861 yards on 192 carries in 11 games for the Colts last season before suffering an ankle injury that required surgery.
He has been productive, and there is interest in him from other teams.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 22, 2023
“The problem, for both Taylor and the Colts, now that Indy has granted him permission to seek a trade, is everything that comes attached,” Breer wrote for Sports Illustrated on August 22. “It’s not just picks another team would be giving up to get him. It’s also, presumably, a contract with no assurances that he’ll return to his 2021 form.”
Breer notes Taylor’s heavy workload dating back to college. He also led the NFL in carries (332) and yards (1811) in 2021.
The carries could be of particular concern: Taylor was on pace for 296 carries last season before the injury, and there is also a stigma about running backs that surpass the 300-tote mark.
Bears’ Track Record Suggests No Deal
For all of the signs that suggest the Bears could be a fit and in play for Taylor, their track record suggests otherwise. Letting Mongtomery walk was more than just letting their top back leave for nothing, he was also a leader in the locker room, and Poles has made several such decisions as he’s reshaped this roster in his image.
That includes adding several running backs in free agency and the draft this offseason while leaving the total 2023 salary for the running back position at $9.3 million, per Spotrac. Poles is also still trying to maximize the return on his investment in wide receiver Chase Claypool at the trade deadline last season which could leave him skittish about taking another such gamble.