As is often the case, the Cleveland Browns are in full rebuild mode. On Wednesday, the team shipped 2012 No. 3 overall pick Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick in the 2014 draft.
Here are some random thoughts about the move:
• Browns CEO Joe Banner used the word "positioned" to explain the move. That's just a fancy word their PR staff gave him to supplant "tanking." Make no mistake, the Browns have given up on the 2013 season. Cleveland sports fans know how this feels. The Cleveland Cavaliers tanked to get LeBron James in the 2003 NBA Draft. There is no LeBron James in the 2014 NFL Draft. There isn't a surefire franchise-turning player. There isn't a player who will reinvigorate a depressed fan base. This just feels different in football.
• The issue in this trade is not how good Richardson currently is or has the potential to be. It is how much you believe in the drafting ability of Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi. Is the player they select with this pick really going to make the Browns better than Richardson? In a few years, that's how the trade will be viewed.
• If the team was down on Richardson and a running back can be found anywhere in the draft, then why not take one this year? They certainly didn't like the other running backs they inherited as evidenced by the release of veteran Brandon Jackson before the season. Maybe they should have used a seventh-round pick this year if its so easy.
• The real gamble the Browns are making is that the best quarterbacks can stay in school, other than Clemson's Tajh Boyd. Lets say you're Oregon redshirt sophomore Marcus Mariota. Mr. Colin Kaepernick 2.0 himself. Playing at Oregon may look better than going to a team that gives up on a player after 17 games.
• Which quarterback would fit in Cleveland the best? Offensive coordinator Norv Turner very obviously runs a vertical passing offense. His offenses typically feature a traditional pocket passer with a strong arm. Fitting that profile the best is LSU's Zach Mettenberger. But to this point, he doesn't look like a top five pick.
• The best quarterback in next year's draft looks to be Louisville junior Teddy Bridgewater. His arm is strong. He can read a defense. But he doesn't quite feel like another Andrew Luck. There is no certainty with Bridgewater. The other quarterback in the running will be UCLA's Brett Hundley. Like Mariota, he is just a redshirt sophomore. Unless a guy really, really wants or needs money, Cleveland isn't particularly nice in winter.
• The other obvious gamble is that the Browns could still finish with a better record than a team or two. That would leave them with the second or third best quarterback. And don't assume that team in front of them will trade down because they probably need a quarterback just as bad as the Browns.
• Sometimes people will remark to me that it's too early to be talking about the NFL Draft. Whenever someone says that in the future, I'll point to this trade.
• Hey, at least the Browns got more for Richardson than the Buffalo Bills did for Marshawn Lynch, whom they gave up for a fourth- and fifth-round pick. Sorry Bills fans. If there's one group of fans that can commiserate with Cleveland fans, it is Buffalo fans.
• For the Colts, it's a daring gamble. General manager Ryan Grigson has been pretty bullet proof in his short career with Indianapolis. It should be noted, though, that the Colts now don't have picks in the first and fourth rounds next year. The fourth rounder was actually traded to Cleveland for a fifth-round pick this year (used on defensive tackle Montori Hughes).
• The sky isn't falling in Cleveland. That's an impossibility when the clouds are already in the dirt. But if you're a season ticket holder, or just a regular fan, it's hard to have faith in the Browns. Oh, who are we kidding? If you're a Browns fan, you should be used to gut punches. Compared to the Drive, the Fumble, Red Right 88 and the Move, this is a dainty pat to the stomach.
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