In a stunning move, the Cleveland Browns guaranteed their fans another transition season Wednesday when they traded running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2014 first-round draft pick.
This gives the Colts two of the top three players selected in the 2012 NFL draft -- No. 1, quarterback Andrew Luck and No. 3, Richardson.
It gives the Browns multiple draft choices in 2014 in the first, third and fourth rounds.
But more immediately, it leaves the 2013 team floundering in transition mode as the Richardson trade followed the announcement that Bobby Hoyer is starting at quarterback on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. And the team hinted that former starter Brandon Weeden might not get the job back.
The trade necessitated bringing in 31-year-old Willis McGahee, who is expected to sign if he passes his physical. McGahee was cut by the Broncos after rushing for only 731 yards in 2012, although he did run for 1,199 in 2011.
All of this reflects the direction of the Browns' new general manager Michael Lombardi, whose affinity for Hoyer dates back to his days as a television analyst in 2010. And it smacks of his known dislike of anything left over from the previous regime of Mike Holmgren.
Weeden was Holmgren's No. 22 overall pick in 2012. Now a bad thumb has opened the door for Hoyer, who leapfrogged erstwhile backup Jason Campbell to get the start Sunday.
Unless Lombardi is so high on Hoyer to believe he is the future quarterback for the Browns, and the player lives up to that expectation for the balance of this season, then it would seem Cleveland is positioning itself to acquire a franchise quarterback next year.
And they should have the currency to address that in free agency, where they are projected to have $24 million in cap room, and the draft, where they have two picks each in the first, third and fourth rounds.
Although their desirability and availability are unknown at this time, the highest paid quarterbacks who will become free agents in 2014 are Jay Cutler (Chicago), Michael Vick (Philadelphia), Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay) and Chad Henne (Jacksonville).
According to current rankings by NFLDraftScout.com on CBS, the top five college quarterbacks, assuming they enter the draft, are:
--1. Teddy Bridgewater, 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, junior, Louisville.
--2. Brett Hundley, 6-foot-3, 227 pounds, redshirt Sophomore, UCLA.
--3. Tajh Boyd, 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, redshirt senior, Clemson.
--4. Marcus Mariota, 6-foot-4, 212-pounds, redshirt sophomore, Oregon.
--5. Johnny Manziel, 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, redshirt sophomore, Texas A&M
All but Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, are projected as first-round picks at this early date.
It is expected that Richardson will love the move as he reportedly hated the weather in Cleveland and there were rumors he did not get along with Weeden.
According to tweets by longtime Cleveland Browns' reporter Mary Kay Cabot, Richardson's perspective was he "and Weeden don't like each other. ... says Weeden sucks. ... will never win here" Plus she and other sources report that Richardson "HATES" the snow.
Although it does snow in Indianapolis, the Colts play indoors, where Richardson and Luck might be expected to become one of the best offensive balancing acts in the NFL.
Meanwhile , in Cleveland, Lombardi has definitely made moves to determine his legacy in this, his second turn with the Browns. He also previously had stints as a personnel man with the Eagles and Raiders that did not end well. He spent the last five years in the media, most recently for NFL Network.