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The surprise trade of Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns to the Indianapolis Colts after only the second game of the season was a real head scratcher to some as it shows to the players and fans that management has given up on the season, but to the Browns brass there were good reasons for making the trade but do they hold up under a microscope ?
From the Colts standpoint the loss of starting RB Vick Ballard to an injury has created a void as backups Ahmad Bradshaw, Donald Brown and Kerwynn Williams are not considered to be feature backs with Bradshaw and Brown taking their share of hits along the way but still to be part of the rotation. So the addition of Richardson will keep their playoff hopes alive while keeping some of the pressure off of Andrew Luck as Richardson will not only be a featured back in the running game but will also help as a receiver coming out of the backfield.
If the Colts initiated this trade then the Browns must have made some quick assessments as to their short and long term goals and come to the following conclusions:
1. The team is 0-2 and starting QB Brandon Weedon is out with an injury and even though many consider Weedon to be replaceable he is still the starter and if they can't win with him as a starter then what chance do they have to win with the backup? And even with Weedon they must consider their chances of winning to be slim.
2. Everyone concedes that Trent Richardson is a good back and he was voted as the 71st best player out of the top 100 in the NFL by the players prior to the 2013 season, which is a good showing as he had only been in the league for one year. However, in 2012 and so far in 2013 he has had a knee injury, 2 broken ribs, a shin injury and an ankle injury and the Browns must have concluded that in the 2 or 3 years that it will take them to compile a playoff contending roster that Richardson will be too banged up to contribute to that team so why not trade him now.
3. Further, with Weedon out the team may have to rely more on the running game which would increase the chances of injuries to their star RB; and by trading Richardson and playing without him would mean more losses and hence a higher drafting position in 2014 where they intend to draft their franchise QB.
4. Maybe the Browns noticed the Maurice Jones-Drew situation in Jacksonville where the Jaguars allowed him to get beat up in a losing cause instead of trading him many moons ago while he still had value.
5. By dumping, er, trading him now, the trade will be less likely to draw scrutiny from Commissioner Goodell for eviscerating their roster to gain an advantage in draft positioning.
What doesn't make sense, unless the Browns are to clever by half, is that when a team trades an established player for a future draft choice there is usually additional compensation in the way of an extra third or fourth round draft choice to compensate that team for having to wait a year to gain the services of that future draft choice and even for the trading team taking the risk that they will obtain a good player with that future draft choice. But here the Browns made a one for one trade and are taking the chance that the #1 draft choice that they get will be a good player and if he is, the deal was a wash, a good player for a good player, so where is the gain. The Colts expect to have a winning record and even make the playoffs and if they do make the playoffs that is another gamble that the Browns bet on and lost. Maybe the Browns didn't insist upon additional compensation because they knew the trade would demoralize the remaining players which would lead to more loses and a higher draft position with their own choice and could always use the Colts #1 to trade up if they had to in order to obtain that franchise QB.
Another consideration is whether the Browns have already targeted a college QB or two that they feel could become their franchise QB and with their two No. 1's, be able to maneuver for that player. Another gamble ?
In order to obtain Richardson in the first place, the Browns, under a different GM and coaching staff, traded up from pick #4 in the first round with Minnesota at pick #3 by exchanging those positions and with the Browns throwing in 4th, 5th and 7th round draft choices. Apparently they did this to prevent Tampa Bay from moving up to draft Richardson. Tampa Bay later in the first round took RB Doug Martin and many now like him better than Richardson. Then Cleveland signed Trent to a four year 20.4 million dollar contract with a 13.6 million dollar signing bonus. Since the signing bonus is supposed to represent the length of the contract, which was for four years, did the Browns get the proportionate share of that signing bonus back from the Colts who now inherit his 20.4 million dollar contract going forward. If not, they gave up those 3 extra draft choices and all of that 13.6 million dollar signing bonus for the chance to get one player in next year's draft.