BEREA — Slowly but surely, the Browns are ridding themselves of the mistakes made by former CEO Joe Banner and ex-general manager Michael Lombardi.
Cleveland’s latest corrective move occurred Wednesday, when it released troubled wide receiver Davone Bess, along with wide receiver Brian Tyms and linebacker Paul Hazel.
Bess was a massive disappointment during his lone season with the Browns, making a career-low 42 receptions for 362 yards while being credited with an NFL-high 14 dropped passes in 14 games.
The 28-year-old South Florida resident was acquired from the Dolphins during the 2013 draft, then immediately signed to a three-year, $8.82 million contract extension by Banner and Lombardi.
Bess was an even bigger problem off the field, uploading a nude photo of himself to his Twitter account after twice posting pictures with what appeared to be marijuana on his Instagram page. The latter situation prompted Cleveland to place him on the non-football injury list with an unspecified illness Dec. 21.
The six-year veteran is guaranteed to be paid $3.07 million for the 2014 season, but the Browns are expected to contest those terms, citing multiple violations of the NFL’s standard player conduct policy.
On Jan. 17, Bess was arrested for allegedly assaulting a law enforcement official at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (Fla.)
International Airport. One day later, the Miami Herald reported that his family had him hospitalized against his will in March 2013 after police were called to his Cooper City, Fla., home.
According to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Bess was spotted “acting irrationally” in the airport concourse by deputy Thomas O’Brien. He wrote in his police report that the 5-foot-10, 195-pounder was singing and dancing while his pants were falling down.
Upon being approached, Bess crushed a cup of coffee on O’Brien and got into a fighting stance, then removed his shirt after being struck with a police baton.
Prior to the recent incidents, Bess had been one of the NFL’s most inspirational stories after working his way into the league as an undrafted free agent. The University of Hawaii product grew up in a deplorable environment in Oakland and spent 15 months in a juvenile detention center as a teen.
The Browns announced all three transactions shortly after 8 a.m. without an accompanying statement from new general manager Ray Farmer or coach Mike Pettine.
First-year pro Tyms was signed off the Dolphins’ practice squad Oct. 22 and had two receptions in seven games, while rookie Hazel appeared in 13 games after being claimed off waivers from the Jaguars on Aug. 27.
Byrd is the word
Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd appears to be at the top of the Browns’ wish list when NFL free agency begins Saturday. Cleveland is seeking a replacement at the position after allowing T.J. Ward to test the market earlier in the week.
Buffalo opted not to tag Byrd as its “franchise” player for the second straight season, making a reunion with former Bills defensive coordinator Pettine possible.
“Until the league year ends (March 11 at 4 p.m.), he’s a member of the Buffalo Bills,” Pettine said. “That’s all I am really going to say about it.
“Not speaking specifically about any player, but there are a lot of cause-and-effect things with free agency. A lot of what happens depends on how the first one falls. Once that happens, the market is somewhat set and things tend to move a lot faster from there.”
Byrd also has not commented specifically on the Browns, but did praise Pettine in an interview with the Buffalo News.
“He puts guys in position to make plays,” said Byrd, who led the Bills with four interceptions last season. “That’s what it was about on defense.”
The Browns will not raise the price of season tickets for the sixth year in a row. Cleveland has a 27-69 record during that timeframe, never finishing with more than five wins in a season.
According to the team, season ticket deposits are up by approximately 100 percent from last year at this time. In 2013, the Browns had the second-lowest average ticket price in the NFL at $54.20.
Due to the renovations at FirstEnergy Stadium, approximately 15 percent of the franchise’s season-ticket base has had its seating situation altered. They are being relocated in order of their tenure and personal seat license (PSL) status.