Late Wednesday, Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson decided to pull an ace out of his sleeve and make a rather cavalier move in trading the Colts’ first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft for former first-round running back Trent Richardson.
Perhaps the most surprised person in this whole situation is Richardson himself, who found out about his trade via the radio when going about his everyday life outside of football. The third-overall pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2012, Richardson tallied just under 1,000 rushing yards and scored 11 times on the ground in a Browns uniform prior to the trade. Cleveland had originally traded up to the third pick to select Richardson under previous GM Tom Heckert.
It’s a very interesting move, as current GM Mike Lombardi made it abundantly clear that the Browns are in a rebuilding mode by trading arguably the most talented player on the offensive side of the ball. Not only is Richardson gone barely over a year after the Browns traded up for him, but the first-round pick that Cleveland will receive could be a late pick if Indianapolis manages this season to match their playoff-worthy record in 2012.
For the Colts, Richardson’s addition fills a hole left when Indianapolis placed running back Vick Ballard on the injured reserve with a torn right ACL suffered in practice prior to the Colts’ week 2 game. Prior to the trade, Indianapolis was left with free-agent acquisition Ahmad Bradshaw and draft bust Donald Brown, who has tallied under 2,000 rushing yards since being made the 27th-overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft. Richardson gives the Colts a new dynamic to play with, especially since the recent injury to tight end Dwayne Allen has removed a favorite target of Andrew Luck.
The Browns filled the void left by Richardson’s departure quickly by bringing in free-agent runner Willis McGahee, ostensibly to start over Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey. Cleveland may ease McGahee back into the game following an offseason of inactivity due to a broken leg, but the 31-year-old should contribute as a solid runner between the tackles. McGahee is also valuable to the passing game as a blocker and veteran receiver, seen last year in his time as the feature running back for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos prior to the leg injury.
So what do the Browns plan to do with the future pick? If Cleveland continues their losing course this season, they’re likely to have an early pick and a late first-round pick — offering the Browns flexibility in moving up and down in the first-round. If Brandon Weeden doesn’t pan out this season, the Browns could look at drafting one of many quarterback prospects and adding another piece later in the round, or trade around for more picks.
The shocker of a trade was met by mixed receptions by Cleveland fans, as some looked at the trade as getting above market value for Richardson while others looked at it as yet another poor move by a team that has stayed in the NFL’s cellar for years now. However, the trade received almost unanimously positive reviews from NFL analysts, with CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco citing the trade as the jettison of an overvalued runner (Richardson has only managed 3.5 yards per carry since his selection) while he still has trade value and Jason La Canfora cited the devaluation of running backs in recent years as making a first-round pick an excellent haul for a team like the Browns.
In other news, The Colts promoted practice squad receiver Da’Rick Rogers to the active roster in the wake of Allen’s placement on injured reserve. Rogers was considered to be a borderline first-round prospect heading into the 2013 NFL Draft. Rogers was signed as an undrafted free-agent by Buffalo prior to his release in August.