BEREA, Ohio — The biggest pickup the Browns made Saturday night came quietly and was not part of the draft.
That happened when they made a trade to acquire wide receiver Davone Bess from the Miami Dolphins.
That trade involved draft picks, with the Browns giving up a fourth- and fifth-round choice for Bess, a four and a seven.
It sounds like one of those yawners of a draft day trade, but it has some significance.
GM Mike Lombardi talked about Bess’ production. He’s averaged 64 catches a year in his five seasons in Miami, and his 321 receptions rank 16th in the league in that time. In those years the Dolphins played Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen, Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill at quarterback.
In his five seasons, Bess has 88 catches on third down that resulted in first downs, which ranked tied for seventh in the league.
But Bess is bigger than just numbers of catches. He grew up in the toughest part of Oakland, where his father was a drug dealer and he watched an uncle shot and killed at a party.
Bess used athletics to get a scholarship to Oregon State, but when he picked up friends one night they loaded the back of his car with bags filled with stolen goods. He said he did not know what was in the bags, but he was sentenced to 15 months in a juvenile detention facility.
There, he played on a seven-on-seven team, and his high school got a tape to then-Hawaii coach June Jones, who gave him a scholarship.
He was not drafted, but made the Dolphins as a rookie and caught 54 passes.
But he did more than just play. Bess did his best to try to make his story known to troubled youth, and through his foundation The Bess Route Foundation was as involved in the South Florida community as any athlete.
Some in South Florida thought Bess should win the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award after he was named the team’s winner. That award is given annually given to the player whose community involvement stands out.
Lombardi said the Browns did not look past Bess’ production when they acquired him, but it sure seems likely that he’ll have a positive influence on young receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little.
The past few years, there has been a public outcry for a veteran leader among the receivers. Bess could fill that role.
Even if he didn’t, he brings production and depth to a position that needed it. Nelson missed last season with a knee injury, but had 71 catches two years ago and is expected to be healthy for training camp.
By adding Bess and Nelson, the Browns have upgraded a position that needed upgrading.