Browns throw white flag on season with Trent Richardson's trade to Colts

Dan Wetzel

For the Cleveland Browns, this was a move straight out of the NBA.

First, take a long, honest look in the playoff-possibility mirror. Grab whatever asset your spiraling club might have – in this case, Trent Richardson, a young running back with some promise. Trade him to a club that fancies itself as a contender – in this case Indianapolis – for a first-round draft pick. Get ready for the future.

Scroll to continue with content

[Photos: Biggest NFL in-season trades]

"I think it puts us in a good position," Browns CEO Joe Banner said at a Wednesday night news conference announcing the surprising deal. "We are positioning ourselves to build a team that is good and sustainable."

This is not an NFL move because in the NFL teams are loathe to admit they can't compete, they hate trading players with anything left in the tank and it's extremely difficult to ask your current team to play a game this physically dangerous if everyone isn't pushing for victory.

Dumping the No. 3 pick in the 2012 draft, a player with nearly 1,000 rushing yards as a rookie, isn't exactly a sign of confidence that management is dreaming of January.

In the NBA, you can just play out the string. It's basketball. Football in the NFL is way too demanding for that; physically, mentally, emotionally.

Naturally, Cleveland is trying to say it hasn't given up on the season despite starting the season 0-2 and announcing Brian Hoyer as the new starting QB.

Good luck to rookie head coach Rob Chudzinski on getting the locker room to buy into that.

For a replacement, the Browns are bringing in Willis McGahee, who they'll sign if he passes a physical. Richardson was averaging just 3.5 yards a carry this year, so, it's not like they just traded away Adrian Peterson.

Then again, this was supposed to be Adrian Peterson; at least when the old front office, led by the since-departed Mike Holmgren, traded three late-round picks to move up a spot in the 2012 draft and grab the feature back from Alabama.

For this season, at least, the move is a likely disaster for Cleveland.

The season may have been a disaster anyway. Not to mention next year and the year after that. This is a franchise that has been to the playoffs just once (a loss way back in 2002) since being reformed in 1999, is a pathetic 23-59 since 2008 and, yet somehow, someway has very little young talent despite advantageous draft positioning.

Cleveland needs a quarterback. Brandon Weeden, also a 2012 first-rounder has been a bust. Unless Hoyer, who is making his second start in five years in the league, surprises everyone, that's what this trade was about.

[Related: Browns fans quite angry over Trent Richardson trade]

First-year general manager Mike Lombardi has long professed that a top-line quarterback is essential to success in the NFL. Now he can get one out of college who at least projects to that level.

The Browns will have two first-round selections. The one from the Colts will likely be in the second half of the first round. The Browns' original selection will likely be in the top five, maybe even second – after the horrendous Jacksonville Jaguars. Altogether, the Browns have 10 picks. They can move up or down as needed.

"The value that we were getting back," Banner said, "made this a thing we wanted to do."

Time and draft picks will tell who got the best of this deal. The Colts think they landed a multi-skilled running back who, when healthy, will prove potent in an offense that already features Andrew Luck and a dynamic passing attack. The Colts were shopping hard for a running back this week, realizing it's the piece they need to get back to the playoffs. Maybe this is the answer.

Or maybe Cleveland knows Richardson best. Outside of a couple of stars, running backs are a luxury. It's perhaps the easiest position to pick up off the street.

Jim Brown, the team's greatest player ever, welcomed Richardson to town by declaring him "ordinary." Richardson is better than that, although he hasn't shown much of it. He may not be worth a first-round pick – few backs are anymore. That's what Cleveland wound up getting back.

Or maybe it's win-win for everyone; Richardson wouldn't have thrived with the Browns, but can in a better-formed Colts scheme.

Either way, the Browns made their decision. Lombardi will have plenty of picks to work with in building a roster with plenty of holes. A highly touted quarterback is almost assuredly on the way.

[Related: Trent Richardson learned about trade on the radio]

That's next year, though. That's the future. There are 14 games still to play this season, and Cleveland is going to have to figure out how to make an NBA trade work in the brutal, all-in world of the NFL.

Chudzinski is going to earn his pay, because this may not be pretty.

What to Read Next