The Cleveland Browns sent shockwaves through the NFL this week when they traded second-year running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts just two weeks into the regular season. The Browns received Indianapolis’ 1st round draft pick in 2014 in exchange for Richardson, but that hasn’t stopped some fans and a former executive from questioning the move.
The reality is that this trade has several big-picture implications, not just for the Browns but for the National Football League in general. Let’s take a look at what the Trent Richardson trade actually means.
The days of the franchise running back are all but dead – We’ve seen this coming for quite some time. NFL teams have finally figured out that the wear and tear put on the position is too much for one man to carry the load for each team and go through a season unscathed. Running back platoons are the way of the future. The result is less money spent individually on running backs and the eventual disappearance (as we saw in 2013) of the position during the first round of the NFL Draft altogether.
Building your team around a running back doesn’t work – Former Browns exec Mike Holmgren, the man responsible for bringing Richardson to Cleveland, said he doesn’t understand the logic behind trading away your team’s best player. Think about that for a second. What other NFL team can definitively say that its best player is the starting running back? Only one that I can think of – The Minnesota Vikings – and it’s highly likely that they’ll finish last in their division this year. The NFL is now , more than ever, a quarterback’s league. If your quarterback is not the face of your franchise, chances are you have problems.
The Browns have a plan – the fact that Cleveland’s brass made this trade tells me they are paying attention and know how this game works. The NFL is eternal. There is no end. You are either trying to win now or win in the future. The fact of the matter is that the Browns were never going to compete for a Super Bowl this season, so why waste time and resources pretending to? You had an over-priced player at an overvalued position eating up valuable cap space that could be used to put key pieces in place going forward. Winning at a championship level in the NFL very rarely happens overnight and never happens on the shoulders of a running back. They’ll now have two first round picks in 2014 to target one of a number of projected franchise quarterbacks that will be available in the draft.
The Colts made the best of a bad situation – Did they overpay for Richardson? Debatable, but I’m not sure the first round pick they got in 2014 would be the same caliber of player that Richardson is. They had everything they needed on offense except a stud running back. They landed one without really giving up anything they currently owned. Richardson makes their offense more dynamic and could be the final piece to a championship caliber offense.
Time will tell, but this trade appears to have been beneficial to both franchises involved in different ways.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON SEPTEMBER 20, 2013
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