In a bold and surprising move, the Colts announced Wednesday the acquisition of Browns running back Trent Richardson for a 2014 first-round pick.
The Colts lost starting running back Vick Ballard to a season-ending knee injury last week.
The 22-year-old Richardson was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft. As a rookie, he rushed for 950 yards and 11 scores for Cleveland. In two games in 2013, Richardson rushed for 105 yards on 31 carries.
With their starting back gone just like that and depth at the position thin, the Browns will work out free-agent running back Willis McGahee, the club said Tuesday.
In 17 NFL regular-season games, Richardson has gained 1,055 yards and 11 touchdowns on 298 attempts. Though he’s shown intriguing potential — witness his bruising, highlight-reel run against San Diego as rookie — he has gained just 3.5 yards per carry. Moreover, he has dealt with some injuries.
The deal is stunning both in its cost and its meaning. First-round picks are not often dealt, and more and more teams have taken the approach that good backs can be found in later rounds.
For the Colts, the trade signals their willingness to pay the price to make a big deal, something G.M. Ryan Grigson displayed last year when he dealt a second-round pick to Miami for cornerback Vontae Davis. However, this is an even more significant move.
For the Browns, the move weakens their offense in the short term, but it also gives C.E.O Joe Banner and G.M. Mike Lombardi another first-round pick to use in next April’s draft. It also signals the Browns believed cashing out their chips with Richardson now was preferable to having him as their featured back in 2013 and beyond.
The Browns have started the 2013 season with two consecutive losses, their offense sputtering in both games. With Brandon Weeden (thumb) out for Week Three, the Browns are giving reserve Brian Hoyer the start on Sunday at Minnesota.