Trent Richardson Trade: Who Won, and What Are Experts Saying?

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Trent Richardson Trade: Who Won, and What Are Experts Saying?
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When ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson had been traded to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2014 first-round pick, the NFL sector of Twitter erupted. 

A few moments later, after bewilderment made way for logical reasoning, everyone had an opinion on which team "won" the trade.

Newsflash—opinions differed. 

Mike Chappell, longtime Colts writer for The Indianapolis Star, chimed in on the trade and cited the team's offensive philosophy as a reason why it made sense to him:

Chappell's colleague, Bob Kravitz, provided a succinct take on Indianapolis' decision to acquire Richardson:

MMQB editor-in-chief Peter King echoed Chappell's sentiment but took it a step further. Here's why he believed the Colts emerged victorious in the rather blockbuster deal:

They’ve fortified a need position on a playoff contender with a player who is better than he’s played in his 17 NFL games. When you have Andrew Luck, every year is a year to contend deep into January. New offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton wants to be able to use a power running game.

Fair enough. 

Newsday's Bob Glauber gave his in-depth stance on the move and was another who saw the Colts as winners:

The Colts, meanwhile, pulled off a great deal here. The team 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.

But not every acclaimed writer thought the trade went swimmingly for the Colts. 

Nate Dunlevy, former Bleacher Report AFC South Lead Writer and ColtsAuthority.com scribe, summed up his thoughts on the trade with ten words—well, kind of:

From a Browns angle, Yahoo! Sports Frank Schwab was not a fan of the move saying:

We haven't seen the best of Trent Richardson yet, and to give up on him two games into his second season year—it strikes me as just a move from a front office that kind of wants the credit if they can turn this thing around. You're not going to turn it around making moves like this. It just seems like an ego-driven move, it doesn't make any sense. 

Bleacher Report NFL Lead Writer Mike Freeman featured this quote from a scout in regard to Cleveland's decision to move Richardson: "what are they doing?" 

However, Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com laid out the reasons why the trade was sensible in his reactionary column. 

His sub-headings were:

  • Richardson's fit in the scheme - "Browns didn't see Richardson as a great fit for coach Rob Chudzinski's scheme."
  • Richardson's production - "He's averaged 3.5 yards in 298 carries.
  • Richardson's makeup - "Richardson hasn't been consistently healthy since he entered the NFL, and there were whispers he arrived to the league more banged up than advertised.
  • Value of running backs - "Right or wrong, Lombardi and Banner probably just don't value running backs that highly."
  • All about 2014 - "The trade means the Browns have extra picks in the first, third and fourth rounds of next year's draft."

Bill Barnwell of Grantland.com wrote "Score It For Cleveland" in his piece on the Richardson swap, and frankly, the first line he wrote under that sub-heading couldn't have been more exquisitely worded: "the Colts are giving up an enormous asset — their first-round pick in a stacked draft — for a player at the league's most fungible position."

He couldn't be any more correct. 

Jeff Chadiha of ESPN.com has the right idea, as well. From his column:

It's not that Richardson can't be a productive back for the Colts. It's just that Richardson isn't special. He averaged 3.6 yards per carry in his first season (granted, he didn't have much help) and he didn't have the explosive speed to be a game-breaker. The reality is that Richardson wasn't going to be the next Adrian Peterson.

Neither team was hosed in this deal, let's be clear on that. Although some short-sighted thinkers are praising the Colts and condemning the Browns, keep the following in mind. 

As Barnwell alluded to, running backs are easily replaceable in the NFL, especially 3.5-yards-per-carry running backs. The injuries Richardson has suffered can't really be used as an excuse either. Fact is, he plays a position with a high injury-prevalence and short shelf life. 

Richardson's a talented power runner, but he's not a home run-hitting game-breaker who alters defensive game plans. 

Cleveland's current regime simply washed its hands of the old regime's massive mistake of drafting a running back with the No. 3 overall pick. 

Al Bello/Getty Images

Not only did Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert and Co. select a position that rarely represents any semblance of value in the Top 5 in today's pass-happy NFL, they traded their fourth, fifth and seventh-round picks in the 2012 draft to move up one spot to get it. 

Asinine.

At this point, it's really not about who the Browns will draft in 2014 because no one knows. Speculation means nothing right now. Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi believe they'll make the correct selections. 

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

They should be applauded for the simple fact that they have positioned themselves wonderfully for 2014 and beyond.

Sure, it stinks this year for Cleveland, and the Browns marketing department will have a tough time selling the 2013 team to fans. 

But this trade is more about the missteps made by the last regime in Cleveland—see: Weeden, Brandon too—and how this one is cleaning up the mess while acquiring valuable ammunition in the process. 

As for the Colts, if you're looking to be optimistic, they're essentially getting Richardson for their 2014 first-round pick, a selection that'll likely be in the 12-25 range, which is much more reasonable of a draft slot for a running back than No. 3 overall. 

Current offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton ran a traditional, power-running offense at Stanford, and Richardson's an ideal runner for that type of attack. 

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

With Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton, Richardson won't deal with as many loaded boxes as he did with the Browns. However, one of the gripes about his lack of production in Cleveland revolved around sub-par blocking. Richardson is more elusive than most backs his size, but the Colts offensive line is far from an elite unit. 

Who won the trade?

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Is Richardson the key player to take Indianapolis to the next step? Eh, maybe. But could a runner with similar production potential have been added in Round 2 or later in 2014? Probably. Heck, maybe he's already on the team—Ahmad Bradshaw—or could have been signed off the street—Willis McGahee. 

Either way, the Colts see Richardson as their Edgerrin James and envision Andrew Luck as Peyton Manning. So be it. 

It's easy to call the Browns a loser today and for the remainder of what will likely be a disappointing season, one that looked to be lost in the first place. But Cleveland swallowed its pride and made the bold yet judicious choice to give it an opportunity to construct a future winner. 

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