Bears Exploring Trade for Former NFL Rushing Champion: Report

Jonathan Taylor Bears Trade Interest

Getty Bears head coach Matt Eberflus.

The chances of the Chicago Bears making a blockbuster trade for the 2021 NFL rushing leader Jonathan Taylor might be better than they initially seemed.

According to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, the Indianapolis Colts have rejected at least one trade offer for Taylor from the Miami Dolphins but have also been in talks with at least two other teams, which he identified as the Bears and the Denver Broncos.

“Miami has made at least one offer, that was not accepted, and continues to engage the Colts in negotiations, according to a source,” Jackson wrote Thursday. “Denver and Chicago are among other teams that reportedly have expressed interest.”

Jackson also wrote that “at least one team also believed to have made a serious offer to acquire the 2021 All-Pro running back” from the Colts; although, he followed it up by saying that “as of Thursday morning, no team was believed to have met Indianapolis’ request for a first-round pick or something comparable in value” for Taylor.

Bears Would Gain a Superstar With Jonathan Taylor

The Bears are an intriguing potential trade suitor for Taylor if Jackson is correct about them being interested in acquiring him. Right now, they have a sturdy-looking backfield rotation that is set to feature Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman and fourth-round rookie Roschon Johnson for the 2023 season, but Taylor would give them a hard-charging, undeniable lead back for the room who could transform the entire offense.

Taylor was crowned the NFL’s rushing champion just two seasons ago when he gained 1,811 rushing yards and scored 18 rushing touchdowns for the Colts in 2021. Not only did he smash numerous Colts franchise records — nine of them, to be exact — but he also became the youngest player in NFL history to gain at least 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 total touchdowns in a single season. Whether it was breakaway speed, forcing missed tackles or running through contact, it seemed like Taylor could do it all.

A weapon like that could be tremendously potent in a run-heavy, outside-zone blocking scheme like the one offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has established with the Bears. Taylor proved he can be a workhorse during his 2021 campaign with the Colts and has demonstrated good hands for pass-catching as well that would allow him to act as a safety net for quarterback Justin Fields, who possesses his own dynamic rushing ability.

The biggest skill question with Taylor is his pass blocking. Pro Football Focus has rated him very poorly as a pass-blocker over all three of his seasons with the Colts with a 31.2 in 2021 being the highest season grade he has ever received in that aspect of his game. While he has only allowed his quarterback to get sacked once in that time, he has also allowed four hits, 15 hurries and 20 pressures over 134 career pass-blocking snaps.

Of course, the Bears have ways of working around Taylor’s pass-blocking deficiencies with other talents in their backfield. Herbert has working specifically on improving that aspect of his game for the 2023 season after getting dinged for it in 2022. Chicago has also locked down fullback Khari Blasingame (two-year extension signed in March) and veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis (one-year deal signed in early August) to add a few more specific pass-blocking weapons to the fold for mix-and-match looks.

Does Taylor make sense in the grand scheme of things for the Bears’ rebuild, though?

What Could Taylor’s Trade Cost Look Like for Bears?

Jonathan Taylor Bears Trade Interest1

GettyColts running back Jonathan Taylor would incur a steep cost for an acquiring team.

Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that the Bears are, in fact, interested in trading for Taylor and have no concerns about the ankle injury that derailed his 2022 season. The biggest hurdle — as always — comes down to the price tag the Colts have placed on him.

According to ESPN’s Stephen Holder, the Colts are seeking a first-round pick or a trade package equivalent in value in exchange for giving up Taylor. The Bears do own both their own and the Carolina Panthers’ first-round selections in the 2024 NFL draft, but it seems highly unlike that general manager Ryan Poles would give one of them away to add talent — no matter how good — to an area of their roster that has plenty as is.

The Bears would also have to consider the contract-related price tag that would come with Taylor. Part of the reason why the Colts and Taylor have fallen out is his desire to sign a lucrative new contract extension with the team. According to Holder, Colts owner Jim Irsay admitted to him in late July that the team has not even made an official contract offer to Taylor at this point, which has helped drive a wedge between them.

So, not only would the Bears or another acquiring team have to meet the desired trade compensation of the Colts in order to acquire Taylor, but they would also have to be prepared to sign him to a long-term extension that — if he wants to get paid like a top-tier back — could cost more than $10 million per season. Technically, a team could trade for Taylor and play the franchise-tag game with him next offseason, but it would be a risk after how his situation with the Colts has melted down in recent months.

For now, it is hard to think that Poles would give up premium draft assets — even as low as a second-round pick — and then turn around and pay a running back a small fortune, especially with Fields potentially looking for an extension as soon as next offseason and other more pressing roster needs to address between now and the start of 2024.

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