Trent Richardson compared his career to that of Marshawn Lynch. He said teams and fans were done with Lynch after he’d been in the NFL for three years, the same way they’re over Richardson now.
He pointed out that Lynch went on to become one of the best running backs in the league — a guy who anchored a Super Bowl winner. He didn’t say straight up that he’s the next Lynch, but it’s definitely what he meant.
He’s wrong. He’ll never become Marshawn Lynch.
Still, the Raiders decided to give him one more try and he signed with the team on March 17. While it may appear to be yet another bad signing by the Raiders — Richardson has already failed in two cities after being drafted third overall three years ago — there’s one key reason why it’s a good move:
There’s virtually no risk.
Keep in mind, Richardson commanded not just a first-round pick from the Browns, but two additional late picks, as they actually moved up from fourth to third to draft him out of Alabama. After a year and a half, the Browns then got another first-round pick from the Colts in exchange for Richardson.
Now, the Raiders get him for $600K.
That’s all the guaranteed money in his contract, as reported by the Baltimore Sun. The full deal nets him $3.85 million over the course of two years and incentives could push it up into the $4 million area. But that guaranteed money is all that really matters to the Raiders, because it’s all they have to pay a back who was once thought to be the next big star in the NFL.
If he comes to camp out of shape, they can cut him. If he averages under two yards per carry, they can cut him. If he doesn’t like the system or doesn’t want to block or gets outplayed by a rookie, they can cut him.
Richardson was so cheap simply because he has been so bad. There was no market for him at all. He basically had to take what he could get, so the Raiders didn’t offer him much. If he wanted to stay in the NFL, it was his only option. He thinks he can still play, so he took it.
In fact, according to Richardson himself, part of the Raiders’ pitch to him was that he was young and he could be out of football. Jack Del Rio simply asked him what he’d do if he wasn’t playing. It sounds harsh to criticize a man’s career like that, but Richardson had earned it, and it opened his eyes.
Perhaps the Trent Richardson who was drafted and traded for first-round picks, who was a star at the best college program in the country, felt he deserved to be good and that it would come easy for him. Maybe it took away that fire and drive to be great.
Perhaps the Trent Richardson who is only worth $600,000 and is close to never playing football again, despite having played it from the time he was six years old, will get some of that fire back.
If he does, the Raiders get a steal, paying him just $2 million per year. If he plays like everyone thought he could play coming into the draft, they’ve got their running back of the future for almost nothing.
If he doesn’t, if he looks like the Trent Richardson who was a non-factor and eventually got benched in Indy, the Raiders lose pocket change and they can move on.