The trade of Trent Richardson is the biggest in-season move we’ve witnessed in the NFL for some time — it also may have saved a season that appeared to be on the precipice of disaster for the Indianapolis Colts.
After losing their game to the Miami Dolphins and suffering season-ending injuries to three players in G Donald Thomas, TE Dwayne Allen and their starting RB Vick Ballard in the same week, the Colts were widely expected to take a step back this year. However, GM Ryan Grigson had different plans.
Grigson has already made a mark as one of the game’s hottest GMs in his short time in the post-Manning era via the immediate impact of his draft picks. With the successful completion of this trade, he may have solidified his status as one of the game’s best front office men, period.
This is a man that understands his personnel, coaching staff and team needs in a way that most don’t. He knows that offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton wants a play-action style passing game that features heavy formations and tight ends, and in order to do have that, you need an effective power running game — and that’s exactly what Richardson gives them.
Yes, Richardson has only averaged 3.5 yards per carry in his 17 games in the league (which ranks 39th in the NFL), but he’s top ten in yards after contact with well over 400 yards, and he played most of last year with cracked ribs. Chuck Pagano may have put it best when he spoke with the Associated Press Thursday in calling Richardson “a rolling ball of butcher knives.” With Ahmad Bradshaw not having to shoulder most of the load the Colts can protect Bradshaw’s body and now possess one of the best one-two punches out of the backfield in the league.
Richardson should also help the Colts as an added threat in the passing game. He’s caught 58 balls since the start of the 2012 season, while the Colts have ranked last in the league in targeting their RBs in that same span at just 43 times. While it’s true that the Colts offensive line is still very suspect and may not even be better than the Cleveland Browns‘ starting unit, Richardson will definitely see his yards per carry go up with the Colts because of the presence of Andrew Luck.
When you have a franchise quarterback that can hurt you in play-action consistently, it opens up the running game and vice-versa. Luck has already shown that he’s one of the best young QBs in making pre-snap reads of a defense, which means he almost always puts his team into the right play to have the best chance to succeed. Richardson hasn’t had that luxury in Cleveland, and Luck hasn’t had a running back like this since his days at Stanford. This should be a perfect fit.
However, the move does come with some risk, especially when you consider what the Colts traded away.
“If Richardson plays as well as Joseph Addai did — forget Edgerrin James — then it’s a good trade, if he doesn’t, then it’s not a good trade because they gave up a [No.] 1 which would be an important building block going forward,” said former GM and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian Friday morning.
Polian has a point. If the Colts finish at 8-8 or better, then they’re giving up nothing but a mid first-rounder or worse. However, if the team struggles due to injury or other circumstance, they could be losing a top-ten pick for a guy that we still aren’t 100 percent sure will stay healthy and effective long term. Thus, the move is a bit a roll of the dice by Grigson, albeit a necessary one for Indy’s hopes in 2013.
Only time will tell whether the trade works out long-term or not. However, fans in Indy should be encouraged by the move and excited that they have ownership committed to winning now — which is more than fans in Cleveland have been able to say in decades.
For more on Richardson click here.