Browns trade Richardson to Colts for 1st-round pick
Cleveland traded the powerful running back to the Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday, a stunning move just two games into this season and only one year after drafting Richardson in the first round.
Richardson was dealt for a first-round selection in next year's draft, when the Browns will have two opening-round picks and 10 overall. Cleveland is rebuilding and the team hopes to use those picks — seven in the first four rounds — to help turn around a floundering franchise mired in losing for more than a decade.
Such a reversal was what the Browns had in mind when they took Richardson with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 draft. The former Alabama seemed to have it all: power, speed and good hands.
But Richardson apparently isn't the kind of back Cleveland's front office wants or one for first-year coach Rob Chudzinski's offensive system. Richardson, who rushed for 950 yards as a rookie despite playing most of last season with two broken ribs, gained just 105 yards on 31 carries in Cleveland's two losses this season.
He lacked the explosiveness the Browns' new regime was looking for, and it may not have helped that Richardson made it clear he wanted the ball more.
However, Browns CEO Joe Banner said that there was nothing negative about Richardson and the team simply seized an opportunity to improve. And the Colts have been looking for a back since Vick Ballard suffered a season-ending knee injury.
"This was more about the moment presented itself, and based on the situation the Colts found themselves in, it wasn't something where we could say, 'Can you wait three weeks to think about this or learn more?' We thought it was a move to make us better.
Banner said the Browns' first conversation with Indianapolis about Richardson was on Tuesday. Banner said the team is not looking to make other trades, but would be willing to listen if it could make them better.
"I think we feel good about where we're at moving forward," Banner said.
The shocking trade came on the same day Chudzinski announced that third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer will start Sunday against Minnesota. Hoyer got the surprising nod over backup Jason Campbell to fill in for starter Brandon Weeden, who is sidelined with a sprained right thumb.
Like Richardson, Weeden's days could be numbered in Cleveland, where the Browns have started 19 quarterbacks since 1999 and are still looking for the right one. Next year's draft class includes several top-flight QBs and the Browns could be loading up on picks to make sure they get one.
In addition, the Browns are bringing in free agent running back Willis McGahee for a physical and will sign him if he passes. A two-time Pro Bowl pick, McGahee was most recently with Denver.
McGahee rushed for 731 yards in 10 games for the Broncos last season. He has also played for Buffalo and Baltimore, gaining 8,097 career yards on 1,957 carries.
Earlier in the day, Richardson, who has been slowed by injuries throughout his brief pro career, talked to Minnesota reporters on a conference about the pressure and expectations that come with being such a high draft pick.
"I think people make it more pressure than what it is," he said. "I just like to play football. At the end of the day, I'm going to play football like I've always been coached. The way I've always played. I'm going to be physical, fast, I'm going to be up-tempo, I'm going to be the one who's trying to lead by example. No matter what, that's a big reason why I fought through injury last year with broken ribs and two knee surgeries, because I know that being a first-round pick what the expectations are of you, and me being the man that I am, the athlete I am, I'm not going to sit down unless my legs are broke.
"So if I can still run and I can still catch the ball, I'm playing."
Banner said the decision to deal Richardson is in keeping with a plan to overhaul the team.
"Trent's a great player and we expect him to have success in this league," Banner said. "Right now, based on how we're building this team for sustainable success, we're going to be aggressive and do what it takes to assemble a team that consistently wins."
Richardson's role with the Brown has been perplexing under Chudzinski. He only had 13 carries in the season opener against Miami and did not have one rushing attempt in the fourth quarter. Last week, he said he wanted more carries and had 18 in Sunday's loss to the Ravens for 58 yards.
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