After losing Vick Ballard to a season-ending injury, Colts owner Jim Irsay hinted that his team might be in the market for a new running back. Wednesday afternoon, they landed a potential game-changer at the position.
Indianapolis acquired running back Trent Richardson from Cleveland in exchange for a 2014 first-round pick in a trade that is about as big as in-season transactions get in the NFL and probably rivals Washington's move up for RGIII in recent trade annals. Cleveland reportedly will bring in Willis McGahee to help fill Richardson's void in the backfield.
Richardson was the No. 3 overall pick in last year's draft and was thought to be a major building block for the Browns as they moved forward with a new coaching staff this season. Instead, he'll now pair with Ahmad Bradshaw to give Indianapolis one of the league's best 1-2 punches at running back.
The Browns now have two first-round picks for 2014 -- same as they had in 2012, when they drafted Richardson and QB Brandon Weeden. The latter will be out of the lineup with a thumb injury this weekend, and he may be the next key part that Rob Chudzinski looks to replace. Both Richardson and Weeden were brought to Cleveland by the franchise's old regime. Chudzinski, new GM Michael Lombardi and the rest of Cleveland's revamped front office clearly had a different vision in mind, at least when it came to Richardson.
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Those multiple 2014 Round 1 picks now arm Cleveland with the chips it may take to land another "franchise" quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater, Tajh Boyd, Marcus Mariota and Johnny Manziel are just a few of the players who could be on the table.
Indianapolis, meanwhile, has its future -- and present -- in place. The Colts made the playoffs in 2012 after taking Andrew Luck No. 1 overall. Now, the talented Richardson joins a stable of talent that also includes 2012 second-round Coby Fleener and third-rounder T.Y. Hilton.
In addition to rushing for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns on 267 carries last season, Richardson also caught 51 passes out of the backfield for the Browns. Slowed by offseason injuries and a shoddy offensive line, Richardson has not gotten off to quite the same start in new offensive coordinator Norv Turner's offense. Through the first two games of the season, Richardson has 105 yards rushing and 51 receiving.
But he and Bradshaw open up a world of possibilities for a Colts team that, only a few months ago, appeared to be severely shorthanded at running back. The dual-threat abilities of both Richardson and Bradshaw should play right into the hands of Colts coordinator Pep Hamilton, who favors relying on his backs heavily.
The previous Cleveland regime took its last real shot at turning things around by drafting Richardson and Weeden. The new group in charge has decided to try to turn the corner by bailing on at least one of those pieces.
And the Colts may reap all of the benefits.
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