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Could the Trent Richardson Trade Be the First Step in the Cleveland Browns' Possible Plans to Acquire Johnny Manziel in 2014?

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The front office of the Cleveland Browns has some explaining to do.

On September 18, the Browns sent second-year running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for Indy's first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

This trade was maddening, mystifying, and intriguing all at the same time.

With Richardson, Cleveland was already struggling to get the ground game going in 2013. Without him -- well, I'd rather not think about that right now. The Browns are looking to bring in veteran running back Willis McGahee to stabilize a position that Richardson was supposed to anchor for the next decade, but McGahee is 31 years of age, so who even knows how much he has left in the tank.

The Browns were already in a state of flux this week after quarterback Brandon Weeden's hand was injured in the Week 2 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. This trade certainly came at a bizarre time, considering that the Browns were likely to lean heavily on Richardson in Week 3, with third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer manning the Cleveland offense against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Richardson deal certainly came without warning, but what's done is done, so the big question now is how will this trade affect the Browns going forward?

In the short-term, Cleveland's offense is probably going to be even more painful to watch than it already has been in 2013. On September 22, the Browns offense is going to look more like a unit you would expect to see in the fourth quarter of a preseason game, not in Week 3 of the NFL regular season.

Hoyer, McGahee, and returning wide receiver Josh Gordon have combined for zero regular season snaps with the Browns this year, so even though Minnesota's defense has been lousy so far in 2013, don't expect any fireworks at the Metrodome from the Cleveland offense.

If he is signed, even after the Browns do get McGahee up to speed in Norv Turner's offense, he's probably not going to see many carries on a Cleveland team that has ran the ball just 16.5 times per game so far this season. That could be a possible reason behind the Richardson deal, as he has always been vocal about being a focal point of the offense, something that seemed unlikely with the pass-happy Turner at the helm.

Long term, the draft pick acquired from the Colts may not have much value to the Browns on it's own, as it will likely be a pick outside of the top ten. But that selection, if paired with the very likely top five pick that the Browns will have if they continue to play poorly in 2013, could be very valuable down the road.

Browns' assistant GM Ray Farmer attended the Alabama-Texas A&M game on September 14 -- it's pretty reasonable to assume he was there to scout Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel. Barring some remarkable play upon his return, 2013 likely will be the last year we see Weeden in a Browns uniform.

Manziel could be the franchise quarterback the Browns have desperately needed for almost 20 years, and I'm willing to bet Cleveland will be more than happy to part with the pick they got from Indy if it helps them land their man.

Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for over 25 years.

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