Trent Richardson is a good NFL running back. He might even end up being a great NFL running back. It still makes sense for the Cleveland Browns to trade him for what will probably be a late first-round pick, though. Well, actually it makes dollars and cents, sense.
You don’t build teams around running backs anymore. Best-case scenario for a back like Richardson is that he does end up being one of the better feature backs in the league. All that means is that you have to use an inordinate amount of your precious salary cap money to keep him on your roster.
If you do spend that much of your cap on your running back, you end up like the Tennessee Titans or Minnesota Vikings. They both have top backs, and they both gave those backs huge contracts. Because of those contracts, they haven’t been able to spend money on other, more important positions on the field. And, because of those inefficiencies, they will never be true contenders.
Instead, the Browns were smart to get real value for Richardson while they could. That way they avoid the need to pay him big money later on down the line — money that would be better spent in other areas.
Good running backs have become easier to find in recent years. As offenses spread the game out from sideline to sideline, it makes it easier for backs without Richardson-like physical ability to find yards. All you need is a relatively talented runner — something colleges produce at an astounding rate — and you can have a serviceable running attack.
The NFL is a league that doesn’t value a franchise back like it used to, and the Cleveland Browns showed — for the first time in a long time — that they’re ahead of the curve.
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