MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Mike McDaniel seemed a bit exhausted.
The Miami Dolphins head coach again found himself responding to reported trade interest on Thursday morning, this time centering on Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor.
What did McDaniel think of these reports?
“Here’s the thing with ‘reports,’” McDaniel said, gesturing with air quotes. “First of all, I think my 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter just tweeted a report. That every player in the National Football League is coming to the Miami Dolphins. Because I feel like that’s kind of on trend.
“And then, how many times do I have to explain? [General manager] Chris Grier’s job is to work. He works at it a lot and keeps me abreast when they’re real. Generally when things are real, I don’t have questions about them.”
The Dolphins need not say anything for fans to speculate about their interest in available players. Four major criteria prompt Dolphins-Taylor marriage rumors to run wild:
McDaniel came up through the run game and thus appreciates a position that’s facing devaluation trends
The Dolphins ranked 31st in rushing attempts and 25th in rushing yards last season, making the run game an area for improvement
The Dolphins are legitimate contenders who can justify a win-now approach
And the Dolphins have demonstrated an appetite for splash moves, swapping draft picks for Pro Bowl players three times in the past 18 months
So exhausting as it may be for McDaniel, the premise of linking the Dolphins to Taylor makes sense.
There’s a sense around Miami after recent trade activity: What could be next?
Dolphins taking ‘let’s go win this thing now’ approach
Let’s quickly recap the Dolphins’ early McDaniel era.
In March 2022, Miami traded five draft picks including a first- and second-rounder each to acquire speedy receiver Tyreek Hill from the Kansas City Chiefs. At the 2022 trade deadline, they dealt another first-rounder to the Denver Broncos in their package of picks and a player for outside linebacker Bradley Chubb. And most recently, in March, the Dolphins traded a third-rounder and a tight end to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Chubb, entering his first full season in Miami, finds it energizing.
“It shows [Grier] wants to win, man,” Chubb told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday. “And he’s like, ‘Yeah, draft picks? They’re cool.’ But I’ve seen a lot of memes on Twitter that he says, ‘F those draft picks.’
“It kind of lights a fire under you, too, because it’s like, ‘OK, looking at the future. OK, we don’t have a pick there, we don’t have a pick there. So let’s go win this thing now. Let’s not even make that matter.
“Make him look good.”
The Colts, meanwhile, are willing to part with Taylor for the right price. A source with knowledge of the Colts’ decision confirmed to Yahoo Sports on Monday night that the team gave him permission to seek a trade — “with stipulations.”
The 2020 second-round selection sought a contract extension entering the final year of his rookie deal. Team owner Jim Irsay said recently the Colts had not offered Taylor an extension as they enter a season with a first-year head coach and rookie quarterback.
Taylor has not practiced during training camp, instead remaining on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. He underwent ankle surgery in January.
Since entering the league, Taylor has rushed for a massive 3,841 yards and 33 touchdowns in three seasons, averaging 5.1 yards per carry across that stretch. His 2021 All-Pro year featured a league-best 1,811 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, Taylor also leading the league with 106.5 rushing yards per game. Colts players generally skewed less productive last season, hampered by injuries as well as in-flux roster and coaching arrangements.
In 11 healthy games, Taylor rushed for 861 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry a season, down 1 yard per carry from his prior year.
Raheem Mostert, the Dolphins’ leading rusher last season, said he’s following Taylor’s journey as part of the broader running back market trends.
“You have to understand that if somebody does come up and it’s gonna be within the room, you have to have open arms with all that,” Mostert said. “I’m not necessarily worried about another man coming in. I’m just worried about my crap or how I can perform for the Dolphins.”
What to expect from Dolphins run game with or without Taylor
Mostert was more productive and efficient than Taylor in 2022. Reuniting with McDaniel after they worked together in San Francisco, Mostert rushed for 891 yards and three touchdowns last season. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry, and added 202 more yards and two touchdowns receiving.
Jeff Wilson Jr. and Chase Edmonds followed, combining for 702 yards and seven touchdowns from scrimmage in hybrid roles.
Mostert, Wilson and third-round rookie De’Von Achane are among the seven running backs the Dolphins carried on their 90-man roster through their final training camp practice.
The question of whether to trade for Taylor isn’t really about whether he’d make them better on the field in the short term. Players of Taylor’s caliber, when healthy, typically improve a team.
But would he improve the Dolphins’ offense enough to justify “a first-round pick or a package of picks worth similar value,” as ESPN reports the price? Wednesday afternoon, ESPN also reported that six teams inquired about Taylor’s availability, two of them presenting offers. The Colts reportedly want Taylor to settle whether he’s leaving by Tuesday, which is also the deadline for teams to reduce rosters from 90 to 53 players.
While McDaniel’s run-game philosophies could scheme Taylor creatively, the coach already allows the Dolphins to create space in the run game by stretching the field with their speedy receivers.
Mostert won’t be asking any unnecessary questions.
“If it was real, I’m assuming that they would come to me and tell me,” Mostert said. “That was the case last year with a certain player being brought up. … So with all due respect, there is nothing that I’m going to do just to reach out to an organization and be like, ‘Hey, are you guys doing this?’
“I’m not thirsty like that. I’m more so worried about my own and what I gotta do to take care of my family.”