By Brandon Niles Explore Big Sky Sports Columnist
“So that happened.”
This solitary text from my 2 Guys podcast co-host was the first news I received about the shocking NFL trade on Sept. 19, which sent Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts.
This trade is huge. Not only was it a big in-season move, it was one of the rare moments in modern media where a transaction literally took the sports world by surprise. There was no indication the Browns were going to trade Richardson. They picked him third overall out of Alabama in the NFL draft only a year ago, with the expectation he’d become a franchise cornerstone.
Nevertheless, Richardson is now an Indianapolis Colt. In exchange for a first round pick in the 2014 draft, the Colts get one of the most promising young backs in the league. The Browns, seemingly in full rebuilding mode, will have an extra mid-first round pick next year.
My first reaction to the trade was that the Browns were idiots. I hated the idea. However, upon further examination, I think it benefits both organizations. The Colts get the first legitimate threat in their running game since Edgerrin James left town in 2006, while the Browns hit the reset button under new general manager Michael Lombardi.
When Lombardi took over this year, one of his first moves was to hire a new coach, former Carolina Panthers and Browns offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. Chudzinski runs an offense predicated on play-action passing, rollouts, and throwing the deep ball. What he doesn’t tend to rely on much is the running game. Lombardi saw that Richardson, an every down, “bell cow” kind of back, wasn’t a good fit in Chudzinski’s offensive scheme and shipped him out for maximum value.
Meanwhile, the Colts are on a different track. With weapons in the passing game and a potentially elite quarterback in Andrew Luck, the Colts are legitimate contenders for the AFC South division title this year. While Richardson doesn’t fill every hole the Colts have, he does provide them with a star-caliber running back, and will force defenses to respect the Colts’ ground game.
Richardson is not without risk, which might be a big part of why he was traded. While he showed flashes of greatness last year, a struggling Cleveland offense and nagging injuries held Richardson to less than 1,000 yards rushing in his rookie season.
Still, he has shown Pro Bowl ability and if he can stay healthy, he should be a tremendous addition to the Colts offense. The Browns weren’t likely to compete for the playoffs this season anyway, and now have an extra asset for next year. Long-term hope for the giving team and short-term excitement for the receiving team makes for a good trade in my book.