The Browns have shocked the NFL this evening by trading running back Trent Richardson, the third overall pick in last year’s draft, to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a first-round selection in 2014, the team announced.
The Browns also announced that they are bringing free-agent running back Willis McGahee to Cleveland for a physical. The team plans to sign McGahee if he passes the physical.
After the trade, the Browns have 10 picks in next year’s draft, including two first-round selections. The Browns previously acquired the Pittsburgh Steelers’ third-round selection and the Colts’ fourth-round choice.
The move shows the Browns’ new regime, which didn’t draft Richardson, is in total rebuild mode.
“Trent’s a great player, and we expect him to have success in this league,” Browns CEO Joe Banner said in a statement. “Right now, based on how we’re building this team for sustainable success, we’re going to be aggressive and do what it takes to assemble a team that consistently wins.”
Banner said the Browns first discussed the trade with the Colts on Tuesday. He also said the Browns are not looking to make any additional trades.
Through two games this season, the 5-foot-9, 225-pound Richardson has 31 carries for 105 yards (3.4 average) to go along with seven catches for 51 yards.
Last season, Richardson tallied 267 carries for 950 yards (3.6 average) and 11 touchdowns to go along with 51 catches for 367 yards and a touchdown.
Richardson missed most of training camp last year and all four exhibition games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He made it back in time for the regular-season opener but suffered broken ribs in Week 6. He pushed through the pain the rest of the year until he missed the season finale with a high ankle sprain.
The 6-foot, 235-pound McGahee, a two-time Pro Bowler (2007, 2011), will be in his 11th NFL season out of the University of Miami. He has four 1,000-yard rushing seasons on his resume.
The Browns have two other running backs on their active roster: Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey. Ogbonnaya is listed as the team's top fullback, though he has played tailback throughout his NFL career.
Banner and coach Rob Chudzinski held a news conference Wednesday night. The transcript is below.
On whether the trade implies the Browns have given up on the 2013 season: (Joe Banner) “I think the proof in that will come as we keep playing. I think that people are going to see that we need to play hard and prepare and do everything that we can every week. Coach is going to do everything that he can to support that. I think they’ll see as we go out on the field that that is not the case.”
On what kind of pick they hope to get from the Colts, considering the team was 10-6 last year and likely to play well this season: (Joe Banner) “Well, that remains to be seen. They’re 1-1 and there’s 14 games to go. I think it’s reasonable to expect that they’re a good team. But we’ll see how the year goes.”
On whether Trent Richardson fit into the Rob Chudzinski/Norv Turner offense, and whether the trade reflected that notion: (Rob Chudzinski) “No, not at all. It really had nothing to do with Trent from that standpoint.”
On whether this means the Browns are now in position to select a championship-caliber quarterback: (Joe Banner) “I don’t want to tip our hands about what we’re going to do or prioritize in doing, but I think it puts us in a very good position to have made some real progress with the team this offseason, to be in very good cap shape going into next season. We have accumulated those picks. I think we’re positioning ourselves to build that kind of team that is good and sustainable that we have talked about.”
On clarifying the earlier question about whether the trade means that Richardson doesn’t fit the offense: (Rob Chudzinski) “Well, the question was whether he fit the offense. It really has nothing to do with Trent from that standpoint. The opportunity as an organization was there for us to have a chance to get better, ultimately, and I felt like it was the right decision overall.”
On whether he has to sell the players in the locker room that the team hasn’t given up on the season: (Rob Chudzinski) “No. The group that we have in that locker room is an extremely competitive group. These guys understand the business aspect of football. I’m a competitive guy and I expect that we’ll have the same expectations, we’ll have the same goals and we’re going to play every week to win every week. Nothing has changed from that standpoint.”
On what the plans are for the running-back position: (Rob Chudzinski) “We have Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey right now.”
On acquiring RB Wills McGahee: (Joe Banner) “I don’t want to go beyond that he’s coming in tomorrow for a physical. We’ll see how that goes.”
On explaining to fans when the team will win: (Joe Banner) “I really can’t get into a critique of what’s happened in the past. I’m aware enough of it to totally understand the emotions the fans are experiencing, and the legitimacy of the question. All we can do is what we think are the best decisions to look forward and make this the best team it can be, and to position ourselves to be able to sustain that success.”
On how long the trade has been in the pipeline: (Joe Banner): “The first conversation was yesterday.”
On whether the trade potentially comes too early in the season: (Joe Banner)“As Coach just said, this was more about the moment that presented itself based on the situation the Colts found themselves in. It wasn’t something where we could say, ‘Can you wait three weeks and let us think about this or learn more?’ We had to decide whether we thought it was a move that would make us better, and we had to make that decision now. We decided to move forward.”
On whether the Colts initiated the trade: (Joe Banner) “I don’t want to get into the specifics of how everything happened, but we obviously ended up engaging in conversations and ending up agreeing to a deal.”
On willingness to conduct more trades: (Joe Banner) “I don’t think we’re looking to do that. I don’t think that is the plan. At the same time, I don’t think any team in the league would say anything different if something presented itself that they thought made them better, you’d listen. But I think we feel good about where we’re at and moving forward now.”
On whether this trade signifies that the team is turning the page on the 2012 draft: (Joe Banner) “We’re trying to look forward, and what can we do, what opportunities present themselves or can we create that will make us the best team that we can be going forward?”
On message to skeptical fans: (Joe Banner) “We have to earn their belief and trust in the decisions we’re going to make as a group, and I don’t expect them to trust that until we prove that the trust is well placed. So, I understand the skepticism for now. We have to do what we think is right, move the franchise forward and get it to where we want it to be.”
On adjusting to a new starting quarterback and running back: (Rob Chudzinski) “That’s football. You deal with those things, whether they are injuries or a trade in this case. You work your way through the season. Like I said before, I believe in this group, I believe in the guys in the locker room, and I believe that the next guy will step up and we’ll find a way and do what we need to do to win.”
On confidence in the personnel staff building a team, considering the number of picks: (Joe Banner) “I’m very confident in the group of people who will be involved in that, which will include the coaches and the player-personnel department. Like every team, you’ll hit on some picks, you’ll miss on some picks; we’ll be human. But I think collectively, we’ll do a good job of it. I like to refer to it as having a better batting average than other teams. Eventually, that produces a winning team.”
On Richardson’s value compared to the first-round selection received: (Joe Banner) “Again, I just think as we looked forward to what we need to get accomplished, we felt this was good value and gave us an opportunity to accomplish what we want to as we go forward.”
On whether the Browns expect Richardson to play better with the Colts given the quality of players around him: (Joe Banner) “I just think Trent’s a really good player, so I think he would have done really well here, and I think he’s going to do really well there. That’s at least my opinion.”
On running backs available, including RB Willis McGahee: (Joe Banner) “There are some options out there. As I said, we’re bringing McGahee in, and we’ll see how that goes, but there are some options out there we can bring in for the short term.”
On selecting a long-term running back in the middle or late rounds of the draft rather than early rounds: (Joe Banner) “We’ll have to see how that goes.”
On whether the NFL trending toward a passing league affected the decision: (Joe Banner) “You factor in everything, but again, this is really I feel that the value we’re getting back in terms of what we’re trying to do going forward made this a thing that we wanted to do.”
On potentially trading Brandon Weeden: (Joe Banner) “We’re not looking to make any additional trades, so I don’t want to get into that speculation.”
On whether the Browns made the trade after projecting Richardson’s as a No. 3 overall selection that wouldn’t give them the necessary years due to injuries: (Joe Banner) “I think we’ve both said that this wasn’t something negative about Trent, as much as it was the value we think we got in terms of what we feel we need to do to move the franchise forward and get it to where we need it to be, and that we thought that the (running back) position does well to do that.”
On whether Chudzinski has had an opportunity to address the team regarding the trade: (Rob Chudzinski) “It happened after they all had left, so we’ll talk first thing in the morning. I have reached out to the captains, though.”
On whether Chudzinski expects any negative reaction from the players: (Rob Chudzinski) “No, I don’t. The way these are, how committed they are, I expect them to understand and move on.”
On clarifying that Chudzinski had reached out to the captains (Joe Thomas, D’Qwell Jackson and Quentin Groves), and their reaction: (Rob Chudzinski) “Yes. They were surprised at first, but they understand. Like I said, they understand the business of this, that, ‘Hey, we need to go,’ and it doesn’t change anything from an expectation standpoint for us.”
On whether Chudzinski has reached Richardson: (Rob Chudzinski) “I have not. We’ve been trying. We’ve been back and forth, trying to catch each other, but I’ll be able to do that later on tonight.”
On whether Richardson had left the facility prior to learning of the trade: (Rob Chudzinski) “Yes.”
On whether Richardson’s recent desire to get more touches persuaded the Browns to make the trade: (Rob Chudzinski) “Not at all. Not at all. You want guys who want the ball.”
On whether this trade sends a message in the locker room that they need to play better: (Rob Chudzinski) “It may. Obviously, that wasn’t the purpose of that, but again, I think that the guys will respond positively overall, and we’ll be ready for the game on Sunday. Nothing’s changed from that standpoint.”
On whether the team would’ve still made the trade had it started 2-0 or 1-1: (Joe Banner) “That’s hard to know. I think we would’ve stayed true to the principle of if we felt the value was good and helped us get where we’re trying to get to, we would have. But since we didn’t get put in that situation, I can’t tell you for sure.”
On whether the team has spoken to Richardson’s agent: (Joe Banner) “We’ve reached Trent, and we’ve reached his agent. Chud has been trying to connect with (Trent). Mike Lombardi spoke to (Trent), and we both (Banner and Lombardi) spoke to his agent.”