Richardson’s forte: after-contact toughness

July, 24, 2012
7/24/12
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AP PhotoThe Browns hope Trent Richardson can help the league's worst rushing attack last season.
The Cleveland Browns completed the contract signings of their 2012 draft class when first-round picks Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden inked their deals on Monday and Tuesday.

Richardson gets a guaranteed $20.4 million over four years, which includes a $13.3 million signing bonus. Weeden's deal is fully guaranteed from 2012-14, and has more than $900,000 guaranteed in 2015.

The Browns traded up to get Richardson, who won the Doak Walker Award as college football's top running back in 2011, with the third pick.

Richardson rushed for 20 touchdowns last year at Alabama, setting the SEC record for most rushing scores by a running back. His 23 total touchdowns were also the second-most in school and SEC history.

Richardson’s toughness set him apart in college. He gained nearly 50 percent of his yards after contact in 2011 and rushed for over 1,750 yards between the tackles at Alabama.

Richardson should be the primary ball carrier this season for the Browns, who lost their top back Peyton Hillis in the offseason. Cleveland hopes he can bolster a ground attack that had just four rushing touchdowns last year, the fewest in the NFL, and averaged only 3.7 yards per rush, second-fewest in the league.

The Browns selected Weeden with the 22nd pick, making the 28-year-old the oldest player drafted in the first round since 1980, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Weeden, the all-time passing leader at Oklahoma State, passed for 4,727 yards in 2011, ranking second in FBS.

He excelled in the red zone, throwing 24 touchdowns, tied for fourth-most in FBS, and just two interceptions inside the 20-yardline.

Because Weeden was able to sign the deal before training camp, he will have the best opportunity to win the starting quarterback job immediately. Colt McCoy was the starter last year, but he really struggled with a 39.8 QBR that ranked 25th out of 34 qualifying quarterbacks.

The Browns are hoping that Weeden can establish himself as a long-term solution behind center, something that Cleveland fans have not seen in many years. Since 1999, the Browns have had 16 different quarterbacks start at least one game, led by the 59 starts from Tim Couch between 1999 and 2003.

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