I have the feeling that there are more fans of the Trent Richardson trade than detractors at this point in time. That wasn’t the case on the day that the trade occurred, I don’t think. Those who claimed that the Browns were tanking the season (like I did) have been treated to a three game winning streak. Those who liked the trade have been treated to the same winning streak, but also seem to be claiming they are now correct about the Trent Richardson trade due to the fact that the Browns are winning without him right now. Combine that with T-Rich’s continued difficulty running the ball in Indianapolis with Andrew Luck and you have a perfect storm of people jumping to conclusions. I might learn to love the Trent Richardson trade. I’m willing to admit it might be a good move for the Browns, but I’m just not sure yet.
Let’s talk about the three game winning streak. This piece of “evidence” as to why the Trent Richardson trade was good is flimsy at best. The Browns did go on a three game winning streak after the trade of Trent Richardson, but they also switched quarterbacks to Brian Hoyer and got Josh Gordon back. To think that Trent Richardson was somehow holding the team back from winning is silly. Beyond that, is there anyone who thinks Trent Richardson wouldn’t also have benefitted from the return of Josh Gordon and the switch to Brian Hoyer? The bottom line for me is that Trent Richardson – while maybe not good enough for his draft position – clearly makes the Browns roster better than what it is today with McGahee, etc. How much better is up for debate of course, but I think it would be pretty undeniably better.
The Browns did get a first round draft pick for Trent Richardson. On the outside, that seems to be “good value” for a former first round running back with question marks surrounding his ability. I’ll gladly admit that much, but the trade detractors won’t own up to the rest of the facts as obvious potential downsides to the trade.
First of all, the Browns don’t have Richardson playing for them this season for 14 games. Those 14 games of production are worth something while they wait for the draft to use Indianapolis’ pick. I don’t know how well Trent Richardson would be playing for the Browns right now, but I would rather bet on him than Willis McGahee, Bobby Rainey and Chris Ogbonnaya.
Secondly, when the Browns traded Trent Richardson, they didn’t get to trade the cap hits from his signing bonus. The Browns are in a good cap position, so they can seemingly afford to take the hit, but it’s a big one. According to Sportrac.com, Richardson’s “dead money” cap hit for next season is just north of $6.67 million. As you start projecting where Indianapolis’ pick projects to be in the first round as they take care of business against teams like the Seahawks, make sure you think of their pick with all that extra dead money too. I’m guessing Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner don’t really care that they just wasted Randy Lerner’s cash that went to Trent Richardson for his signing bonus, but it’s another layer to the trade that needs to be considered. Maybe the Browns don’t need any extra financial flexibility next season, but it’s not nothing.
Finally, I don’t like the Trent Richardson trade because it created another hole. I have real concerns about this team and their potential needs next season across the roster. I’m concerned about the fact that Alex Mack will be an unrestricted free agent. I’m concerned that T.J. Ward will be an unrestricted free agent. I’m concerned that the Browns don’t have a plan at offensive guard or at middle linebacker learning under D’Qwell Jackson. The Browns will also need to address the quarterback spot, if you ask me. I’ll save that for another post.
The point is that the Browns now have one extra pick, but they deferred production on the field today and created another need for the list. Maybe they can fill the running back need with a third or fourth rounder in this year’s draft, but there’s an opportunity cost. The rookie cap makes it so the Browns could afford to keep Trent Richardson without it crushing their salary cap. Now, they take a cap hit next year which they’ll survive, but they created another need when this team already had enough needs if you ask me. When the Browns said they could only add so many new players in a single year, I believe in that. Roster turnover stunts growth. Did they really need to turn over the running back position by trading Trent Richardson? It remains to be seen.
Now, the Browns obviously traded a guy they didn’t want and didn’t believe in. They made a bold, brash, aggressive move. I really do hope they get this whole thing right. I’m still very concerned that they didn’t. Right now, I’m still not a fan of the trade, but they can make me a believer. I just need this team to make strides forward and they can start by proving this off-season that trading Richardson wasn’t a step back.