The Cleveland Browns have signed both of their first-round picks from the 2012 NFL Draft. According to the terms of his contract, running back Trent Richardson will be paid a guaranteed $20.4 million over the next four years, including a $13.341 signing bonus.
The Browns have now locked up their starting running back and, potentially, their starting quarterback in Brandon Weeden. Next to follow will be Supplemental Draft selection wide receiver Josh Gordon. The trio has the look of turning a downtrodden organization around and making the Browns franchise a contender in the hard-fought AFC North.
Richardson has been touted as the best rookie running back since Adrian Peterson. During his rookie campaign, Peterson exploded for 1,341 rushing yards, 13 total touchdowns and averaged 5.6 yards every time he ran the ball. If Richardson can approach Peterson's rookie numbers, then the Browns may have their third winning season since their return to the NFL in 1999.
At a minimum, Richardson will make life easier on rookie quarterback Weeden. With a smooth blend of power, quickness and game-changing speed, defenses will be forced to stack the box in order to slow Richardson down. There is no question that if the No. 3 overall draft selection pans out as intended, the Browns will emerge as a franchise on the upswing.