The Cleveland Browns yesterday traded star running back Trent Richardson, and cast doubt on the future of starting quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Jim Letizia reports.
Yesterday marked the 18th anniversary of then-Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell's first meeting with the city of Baltimore, a meeting that paved the way for Modell moving the team to that city a few months later. The Browns returned to the league as an expansion franchise in 1999 and have been a model of futility ever since. Three owners, seven coaches, and seven General Managers have produced only two winning seasons and one playoff appearance since the team came back. Yesterday, the latest Browns regime threw in the towel on the 2013 season by trading running back Trent Richardson, the third overall pick in the 2012 draft, to the Indianapolis Colts for a first round pick in next year's draft. Browns CEO Joe Banner knows the move will anger many fans, but he is asking them to trust him as the team builds for the future - a phrase those same fans have heard all to often before.
Banner declined to say who initiated the trade. But asking fans to be patient and promising them future success will be a hard sell for Banner and General Manager Mike Lombardi, who did not attend last night's press conference announcing the trade. Lombardi is a former television analyst who was fired from two previous GM jobs by a hall of famer and a future hall of famer - Al Davis and Bill Belichick respectively. Browns fans remember Lombardi was the team's GM in 1993 when favorite quarterback Bernie Kosar was released in a power struggle with Belichick. And the Banner/Lombardi duo failed to find a starter in the 2013 draft for a team that went 5-11 last season. Rookie head coach Rob Chudsinski says he's not concerned about how the Richardson trade will affect the players.
Hours earlier, Chudzinski announced that third-string quarterback and Lombardi favorite Brian Hoyer will start this week in place of injured starter Brandon Weeden, bypassing more experienced second-stringer Jason Campbell. Hoyer has one career start while Campbell has 71. Chudsinki would not say if Weeden, chosen 19 slots after Richardson in the 2012 draft, would get his job back when he is healthy. The Richardson trade gives the Browns extra picks in the first, third, and fourth rounds of next year's draft, enough ammunition to acquire a franchise quarterback. The Browns sent Assistant GM Ray Farmer to last Saturday's Alabama/Texas A&M game to scout Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. The 0-2 Browns are also said to be scouting Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and other top collegiate signal callers. The team is expected to sign veteran running back Willis McGahee today to replace Richardson.