Yesterday the Cleveland Browns pulled off the biggest trade of the 2013 NFL season when they sent Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Following this transaction, Ahmad Bradshaw fantasy owners cringed, casual league fans were puzzled, and Browns fans were like “What the f**k!?”
After all, Richardson was the third overall pick of the 2012 Draft, an every-down back, and somebody who was generally expected to be a franchise player. So why did the Cleveland Browns trade their most precious commodity? Especially when the Colts’ top pick only projects to be a middle-first rounder?
Well the simple answer is that they’re trying to tank the season following an 0-2 start. So why not get rid of their injury-plagued running back while they still can and stockpile another first-round pick in the process.
Basically, the Browns found the perfect taker for Richardson because Indianapolis is desperate to solve their running back situation and make the playoffs for a second consecutive year. They thought that Bradshaw could be this guy when they signed him to a one-year deal in the offseason, or at least a combination of him and Vick Ballard.
But Ballard exited in the first week with a season-ending knee injury while Bradshaw has been nothing more than steady with 91 rushing yards, 26 receiving yards and a touchdown (in 2 games). Plus, given his constant foot injuries, the Colts felt that adding a potential star player like Richardson could boost their postseason chances in a crowded AFC East division.
And make no mistake about it, Richardson is a top-notch talent who’s capable of great things. In his rookie season with Cleveland, the Alabama product rushed for 950 yards, added 367 receiving yards, and scored 12 TD’s, despite playing through injuries. So just imagine what he could do on a team where opposing defenses need to worry about the pass.
Unfortunately, this team wasn’t the Browns and opponents were stacking the box with seven and eight defenders on every play, just daring Brandon Weeden to throw. The way Cleveland sees it, why keep running Richardson into a brick wall this season while losing games when he’s got major trade value.
Let’s face it…the Weeden experiment has failed after 18 games, the offensive line is still bad, and there are no huge play-making threats on this club. These are all things that management feared going into the 2013 season, but there was also a glimmer of hope if Weeden could’ve developed.
That hope is gone, and now, like 50% of the league, Cleveland is trying to find a reliable quarterback. With an extra first-rounder, they now have the chance to trade up for Teddy Bridgewater, if the Jacksonville Jaguars (who are definitely going to finish dead last) feel like making a deal. If this doesn’t work out, Cleveland is likely to finish with the league’s second worst record, which would probably land them UCLA QB Brett Hundley.
Some say South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in the most talented player in the draft. However, it’s unlikely that the Browns would pass up the chance at getting a signal caller in a class that’s loaded with QB talent.
But for now, Cleveland will pretend to focus on this season by bringing veteran Willis McGahee into the fold and trying to win a game or two. But as the Richardson trade indicates, they are really only thinking about 2014 and beyond.