Colts general manager Ryan Grigson cast a narrow and precise net in his search for a new running back in the wake of Vick Ballard's season-ending injury. He focused exclusively on running backs he viewed with solid potential who were still on their rookie deals, according to league sources. There were no calls placed to see what it would cost to obtain veterans like Maurice Jones-Drew or Fred Jackson, sources said, and the Colts did not include aging players in their evaluation process.
Grigson and his staff re-watched film of about five players primarily, according to sources, as they devised a strategy. Richardson, the third-overall pick in 2012, was obviously highest on their list, but as they knew it could be difficult to land him, they did not focus solely on him. They also made overtures to Detroit about Mikel Leshoure (the Lions quickly rebuffed sources said) and to Minnesota about backup Toby Gerhart, who played for Indy's offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton, at Stanford. Arizona's oft-injured Ryan Williams was another player they investigated. The Cards shopped Williams in the preseason but did not receive a call from Grigson, sources said. Additionally, former Chargers first-round pick Ryan Mathews, who has struggled and remains on his rookie deal, was not among the players Grigson considered, according to sources, nor was former Saints first-round pick Mark Ingram.
Grigson told the Browns on Wednesday that he had a deal for another running back agreed to -- he declined to reveal to me who it was, though I tried like heck to get him to -- and that was not a bluff. However, the other deal was not nearly as high profile as this. When Grigson informed Browns president Joe Banner of the other deal Wednesday afternoon (Grigson scouted for Banner in Philadelphia), Banner said he asked for more time to contemplate what Cleveland would do.
Trade talks between the Browns and Colts began in earnest Tuesday night, when Grigson inquired about Richardson's availability, and Banner asked for an hour to weigh options internally. When Banner called back he told Grigson that he would not do the deal for less than a first-round pick (Cleveland originally asked for multiple picks, including a first), and Grigson agreed to those conditions and the deal was struck.
Grigson said he was impressed with how Richardson is a fit in the power run game coach Chuck Pagano favors, and believes Richardson has the potential to be a standout player for him. “We feel like we added a very, very talented piece to the puzzle,” he said. “I don't see a 3.7-yard per carry back. He's not just a straight-line runner. We've seen him make guys miss and then run them over. He's still just 23 years old, and he fits the vision for what we are trying to build here.”