We've seen some stunning trades in the NFL, but none quite like this one: Just two weeks into his second season, Browns running back Trent Richardson has been traded to the Colts in exchange for a first-round pick in 2014.
While it's not unusual to see a running back traded, it’s almost unheard of to see the third overall pick of the previous year’s draft get dealt so soon. It was a stunning fall from grace for Richardson, who simply didn't meet the standards set by the new Browns’ brain trust brought in after last season.
Former team president Mike Holmgren brought Richardson to Cleveland last season, in hopes that he would bolster the running game for years to come. But newly hired general manager Mike Lombardi clearly didn't like the pick, and was willing to sell high once the Colts came calling with a first-rounder after losing running back Vick Ballard to a season-ending injury in practice last week.
Cleveland is now positioned to go for one of the top quarterbacks in next year’s draft, whether it's Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M or Marcus Mariota of Oregon. But they're also that much further away from turning around the fortunes of their moribund franchise. The Browns have made just one playoff appearance since returning to Cleveland as an expansion franchise in 1999, and have trotted out way too many young quarterbacks, only to see them fail.
Brandon Weeden, another first-round pick of Holmgren's last year, is likely on his way out, too. The team announced on Wednesday that third-stringer Brian Hoyer would make the start this week in Minnesota because Weeden is dealing with a thumb injury. But there is every reason to believe that Weeden is not the quarterback of the future, in large part because Lombardi, who was an NFL Network analyst when the Browns chose him last year, ripped the pick.
Oh, to be a Browns fan. Just torture.
The Colts, meanwhile, pulled off a great deal here. The team that once traded for Eric Dickerson and once traded away Marshall Faulk has brought a potential breakaway threat to an offense that already includes Andrew Luck. That means the Colts have the first AND third picks from last year's draft. And all they had to give up to get Richardson was a first-round pick that will probably be somewhere in the 20's, assuming the Colts have the kind of season we expect.
They already have former Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who has proven to be excellent when he's part of a stable of quality running backs. And Richardson will get a much better chance with a winning team like the Colts to display his talents than he did in Cleveland, where he was the only offensive threat and was thus the focus of attention among opposing defensive coordinators.
Richardson has had trouble with injuries early on in the NFL, but if he's healthy, he can be a top 10 running back. Which makes Indy’s offense all the more dangerous.
Great trade for the Colts.
For the Browns, it's more of the wait-until-next-year dynamic this team has suffered with for years.
Make that decades.