Colts owner Jim Irsay: Running back comment not aimed at Jonathan Taylor

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay attempted to clarify his comments Thursday, saying a statement he made on Twitter this week regarding the pay structure for NFL running backs was not aimed at his team's dismayed All-Pro back, Jonathan Taylor.

But Irsay also made a surprising revelation about the team's approach to Taylor's future. Irsay disclosed that the team has not made an official contract offer to the 24-year-old star, who is entering the final season of his four-year rookie contract and seeking a new deal.

Irsay on Wednesday took aim at statements made by Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris, who said the league's top running backs were discussing, among other things, the idea of altering the way salaries of franchise-tagged players are determined so that elite backs earn more money. Irsay balked at the idea, saying "some agents are selling 'bad faith.'"

But the ill-timed comment was made in the midst of Taylor's increasingly impatient search for a new deal, prompting an angry reply from Taylor's agent.

"The comment wasn't really directed at Jonathan," Irsay said in a phone interview with ESPN. "We haven't exchanged any contract numbers with each other or anything like that. So, it's not like we're in the midst of that. I think we had a tough season last year. Didn't win a lot of games. This is a year about coming back together and having a great year and we're really depending on Jonathan to team up with [quarterback] Anthony Richardson to try and pull together to have a great year."

Irsay's unequivocal comments left no doubt the Colts currently have no intention of extending Taylor before he plays out his deal.

"We love Jonathan, we need Jonathan," Irsay said. "Our hope is Jonathan has an outstanding year and that we have a good year as a team and then we get his next contract done. That's the hope. We think the world of him as a person, as a player. It's just timing. When your time comes to get paid, then you get paid."

The team's position has likely inflamed its relationship with Taylor, who last month reacted to the difficult negotiations of running backs around the league by saying, "You see why guys request trades. They just want to feel valued by not only their coaches, their teammates, but the organization as well."

Irsay emphasized his team's history of extending the contracts of its star players, saying, "We've always paid our players. We've always believed in our core players going to a second contract. And that's been how we've been successful in the last 20, 25 years. So, that's not changed."

However, there are numerous recent examples of the Colts extending core players on the current roster prior to the end of their previous deals. Center Ryan Kelly, linebacker Shaquille Leonard, offensive tackle Braden Smith and guard Quenton Nelson all signed new deals with one season remaining on their rookie contracts.

Taylor -- who led the NFL in rushing with 1,811 yards in 2021 -- is scheduled to earn $4.304 million this season. That ranks 18th among running back salaries in 2023. Taylor, who Tuesday was placed on the physically unable to perform list after offseason ankle surgery, has not commented since making his displeasure known last month.

His agent, Malki Kawa, declined comment Thursday but spoke to Taylor's frustrations by replying to Irsay's tweet, "Bad faith is not paying your top offensive player." And Thursday, in a reply to a tweet about the possibility of mending the relationship between Taylor and the Colts, Kawa simply wrote, "I doubt it."