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The Browns Aren’t Really ‘Tanking,’ And They Won The Trent Richardson Trade

Trent Richardson

The Cleveland Browns shocked NFL fans yesterday by trading Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2014 first round pick.

It was out of nowhere, and everyone’s immediate reaction, myself included, was: What the fuck is Cleveland doing?

Once I had a chance to calm down, it was: Oh, so they’re tanking for Jadeveon Clowney/Teddy Bridgewater?

A little while later, I realized: Oh, this was a no-brainer for the Browns. And while I understand it for the Colts, I’m not sure I like it for them.

The Browns won this trade. It might pay off for the Colts, too, but the Browns won this trade.

The most obvious criticism of the Browns is: Why would you give up on a guy you picked third overall in the draft just a year ago?

Well, you’re right. That’s dumb. Usually. Richardson hasn’t been especially productive to start his career (3.5 ypc), but he’s supremely talented and has shown plenty of promise. And the main reason he’s struggled has been Cleveland’s lackluster offensive line and passing game. Trent Richardson did a relatively good job given his awful circumstances.

So, why give up on him again? Because this is the point. This is why it’s smart. Richardson hasn’t lived up to his potential, because running backs are ridiculously overvalued in the NFL, and unless you’re getting someone of Adrian Peterson’s caliber, a legit once-in-a-generation talent, you’re wasting the third overall pick if you select a running back. Richardson has a $20+ million, all guaranteed contract, but the Browns offense has still been stork-droppings because he can’t make an impact on such a dreadful offense.

And, well, there’s a new general manager in there. Mike Lombardi is just cleaning up the last regime’s (PLENTIFUL) mistakes, so you can’t fault him for giving up on a decision from a year ago. It’s smart to cut ties as quickly as possible and salvage things as best as possible.

Also, who are these idiots that are guaranteeing the Colts pick will be in the mid-20s or later? The Colts are a mediocre team with a ton of holes, that can only be masked so much by Andrew Luck. Oddsmakers pegged their win total at 8 before the year, and they’re currently 1-1 with a near-loss to the Raiders on their resume. They will likely be favored in six or seven more games, maximum, the rest of the season. Their schedule is very tough. Look at it. They will have to vastly exceed expectations to make the playoffs.

They’re probably not making the playoffs, and they have the same serious offensive line problems that the Browns have. And their defense is far worse than the Browns’. Trent is certainly a nice addition, but if the Colts don’t make the playoffs, which seems likely, they’ll regret giving up a mid-first-round pick for a running back they didn’t put in an environment to succeed. Just like the Browns did a year ago.

But what do the Browns get out of this?

Well, first of all, they’re not really tanking. Yes, they traded their most talented skill player, but he hadn’t been contributing all that much. To wit: oddsmakers didn’t move this week’s Browns-Vikings point spread at all upon the trade’s announcement. That means that oddsmakers, and the betting market, feel that Trent Richardson is worth literally nothing to the Browns in the current situation. And that’s really not a knock on Trent. It’s a knock on the Browns’ supporting cast, and it’s a knock on the school of thought that running backs can succeed on their own. They can’t.

Also, benching an injured Brandon Weeden, for anyone, does not qualify as tanking. Weeden was so bad that replacing him with Jürgen Klopp couldn’t possibly be anything more than a minor drop-off.

So, the Browns remain a team with a solid, promising defense (giving up just 2 ypc on the season so far), and a mostly-talentless expanse on offense. They’ll play some surprisingly close games, but likely be in the running for a top pick. They aren’t “tanking,” because they didn’t get much worse, but they will likely not be very good.

And now they’ll have one very high pick, one probably-mid-round pick, a second rounder, two third-rounders, two fourth-rounders and other picks. In a draft rife with skill-position talent, they could come away with their quarterback of the future (Bridgewater/Boyd/Manziel/Mariota/Hundley/McCarron/Morris/Fales/Murray/whoever the fuck they like the most), and another explosive threat (Sammy Watkins?), or maybe even Clowney if they nab a top-two pick. They’ll miss Trent, but not too much, if they get two of these guys.

Because Trent can’t do it all by himself. But you know who can? A top-flight quarterback, especially if paired with Watkins/Josh Gordon/Jordan Cameron and a decent free agent/rookie running back.

Seriously, if all this happens? The Browns will just be in similar position to the Colts, except that they’ll actually have a defense.

(Oh, and people around the NFL appear to agree with me.)

Photo via

  • Ted Tidwell

    I think it was a pretty even trade, with a slight nod to the Colts in the short term…mainly because while Richardson’s value was negligible to the Browns (and considering the fact RBs are overvalued, I agree there), his addition still makes the Colts a better team in 2012.

    Overall the Browns are not a good team, even with Richardson, but I think you have to consider the sum of the other parts contributing to that (ie the QB and receiving corp). The Defense is very respectable, ranking 12th against the pass and 5th against the run. McGahee can come in and plug in 3.5 ypc and Hoyer will throw for 50% and avg under 200 ypg. I don’t think that you can expect more than a pick that goes lower than 20, because I do think Indy will over-perform your expectations. But, you are right it clears cap space at an over valued position, and lets Cleveland clear the table to reload in the long term.

  • JHop

    The biggest costs to consider are not on the field, but off of it. Even if the trade makes football sense, from a fan’s perspective it’s extremely disheartening. As a Browns fan myself, it’s terribly frustrating to know that I can’t buy any player’s jersey because he might be gone (I decided never to buy a Browns jersey again after my Peyton Hillis jersey proved to be worthless).

    The new ownership and management group haven’t earned the cajones to pull off such a move. The Colts, when deciding between keeping or releasing Peyton Manning, had earned the trust of the fans and shown they could properly manage a franchise, so any move they make could be justified. The new Browns regime, however, has not. If anything, they’ve consistently shown otherwise (go take a look at Lombardi’s and Banner’s previous draft records and you’ll see what I mean).

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, if I was a Browns fan, I’d be frustrated. Can’t blame you at all.

    And as far as believing in Lombardi’s drafting, well, I can’t offer much consolation there. All I’ll say is that the draft involves a lot of luck, and if you guys pick the right QB, you could be going places. But it’s always a crapshoot. There’s always a Weeden.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, there’s no doubt the Colts won short-term. He definitely makes them better this year.

    And yeah, my analysis goes on the assumption that the Colts’ pick will probably be in the 15 range, but I can’t blame you for disagreeing with me. We’ll see.

    I’ll say that I understand the motivation on both sides, which is a rare thing to say in a sports trade.

    My main gripe is that I don’t think the Colts have a chance to do anything significant this year, but maybe I’m wrong. We’ll see.

  • Ted Tidwell

    The AFC is watered down overall, lots of average teams…even at the elite level there is a wide disparity of talent. Who knows the Colts could emerge from the middle of the pack…I think they will be a wild card. I am underwhelmed by the talent past the elite(s) overall.

  • Anonymous

    good point. i just think they’ll struggle to make the playoffs with their schedule. looks like 9 wins will be really tough to achieve, and that might not even be enough.

  • Lee

    Someone’s drinking Joe Banner’s Kool-Aid. You don’t trade a number 3 pick overall for a 25-32 pick straight up. Even just a year apart. Make the Colts give up a good player now and two more picks. TR cost the Browns 3 additional picks himself! Do you really think a POS late first rounder is the best Cleveland could have gotten for TR? Why didn’t they shop him around? Why were they working on Indy’s clock and not their own? There are teams that would give their left nut for TR.
    As far as his stats, he had a very good rookie year! 12 TDs, 51 rec., over 1,200 yards from scrimmage. His YPC has a lot to do with his O-Line and his QB. Weeden strikes fear in the hearts of exactly zero teams in the NFL (other than his own).
    The only people buying what these new clowns are selling are naïve kids under 30 and brain-dead, beer-swilling morons. Cleveland fans should boycott the games and demand season-ticket money back. Shame on the Browns and shame on the NFL for allowing this nonsense.

  • Steve Barlow

    Guess the Colts overproduced then, going 11-5 and wining a playoff game, while beating Denver, San Francisco and Seattle. That pick is 26th overall, with only Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, New England, New Orleans and Carolina picking after them. That being said, I will say that Richardson’s play was bad, he showed no instinct and made bad decisions. I’m not calling him a bust yet, but I think they could have gotten anyone off of waivers to do as well if not better. He made Donald Brown look good! He may turn it around but it’s hard to teach instinct.

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