“Obviously they have a bunch of young guys there who had pretty good seasons last year,” Bess said Monday on a conference call. “(They’re) young, hungry, intelligent, athletically, physically, mentally. To come in and just share my knowledge and be able to help out a group not only from a physical, playmaking standpoint, but just more mental and just understanding the game of football from an X’s and O’s standpoint.”
Bess, 27, was acquired over the weekend in a trade with the Dolphins. The Browns didn’t give up a draft pick, moving down seven spots in the fourth round and swapping a fifth-rounder for a seventh-rounder.
The deal was quickly followed by a three-year extension for Bess that runs through 2016. He joins Josh Gordon, Greg Little, David Nelson and Travis Benjamin as the top Cleveland wideouts. Nelson, a free-agent signee, is second to Bess with three years in the NFL.
Bess (5-foot-10, 193 pounds) joined the Dolphins in 2008 as an undrafted rookie out of Hawaii. He started 33 games with Miami, totaling 321 catches for 3,447 yards, a 10.7 average and 12 touchdowns.
Bess started all 13 games he played in 2012, catching 61 passes for 778 yards, a 12.8 average and a touchdown. He missed the last three games — the first of his five-year career — with a back injury. The Dolphins spent a lot of offseason money on receivers, making Bess expendable.
The Browns were happy to pick up the man who described himself as “a get-it-done type of guy.”
In his career, Bess has 130 third-down receptions, second in the NFL to Roddy White’s 146 during the span. Over the last four years, 42 percent of Bess’ receptions came on third down, the highest rate among players with 100 catches.
“I take extreme pride in being productive in converting on third down,” Bess said. “I think a big part of it was obviously the opportunity that the coaches put me in, and giving me the ability to put me in certain situations and being able to find a mismatch and letting me do what I do. But from that standpoint, just studying, watching my opponents and kind of having that chip on my shoulder and watching that bull’s-eye when third down comes and wanting to get it done.”
“He’s played in the league and on the most critical down he’s been able to convert, so it was a good opportunity for us,” general manager Michael Lombardi said.
The Miami coaches reportedly were upset Bess didn’t play through the back injury last season, but he said he didn’t know if that was a factor in the trade.
“To be honest, I have no idea,” he said. “It was a touchy situation, but we let bygones be bygones. We moved forward and that’s the end of that.”
Bess said it will be difficult leaving Miami.
“My initial reaction was it was bittersweet, obviously being down here in Miami since my rookie year, having developed a relationship with the organization, the fans and kind of embracing my opportunity was something special here,” he said. “But all good things, they say, must come to an end. To jump ship to Cleveland was a great opportunity, a great steppingstone for myself in my career. So personally it was a great move for me. I’m thankful for the future and I’m looking forward to being a Brown.”
Bess won’t have to wait long to see his former teammates. The Dolphins visit FirstEnergy Stadium in the season opener Sept. 8.
“It’s just ironic that it happens to be the Miami Dolphins,” he said. “And I love those guys. I’m really good friends with a whole bunch of the guys, with the whole defense pretty much. They know what I bring to the table, I know what they bring to the table, it’s going to be a good one.”
Bess never had fewer than 50 catches or 537 yards in a season with Miami. His best year was 79 catches for 820 yards and five touchdowns in 2010.
He appreciates life in the NFL after overcoming long odds. An arrest after his senior year in high school in Oakland, Calif., cost him a scholarship to Oregon State and sent him to a juvenile detention facility for 15 months.
But he kept the dream alive, played seven-on-seven flag football and was awarded a scholarship to Hawaii. He founded “The Bess Route Foundation,” which is dedicated to shaping positive lifestyles for underprivileged children.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t remember those times,” he said. “Those heartaches, those tough times, those experiences in my cell molded me into the man I am today.
“We’re all going to have tough times, we’re all going to have experiences, we’re all going to have obstacles we got to overcome, but one thing we can always change is our mind and our attitude, and that’s kinda been my motto and I’m just keeping it that way. And it’s been the driving force and the key to my success.”
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported veteran offensive lineman Winston Justice, 28, will visit the Browns on Wednesday. He had stops in Tennessee and Pittsburgh on Monday.
Justice (6-6, 317) has started 43 games in seven years, including the first six with the Eagles when Browns CEO Joe Banner was president. Justice started all 12 games he played for Indianapolis last year.