Dolphins Should Have Kept Bess
During the draft, the Miami Dolphins traded receiver Davone Bess to the Cleveland Browns. Through the trade, the Dolphins moved up in the fourth round to select linebacker Jelani Jenkins, and exchanged their seventh round pick for the Browns fifth round pick, which ended up being Mike Gillislee. While both of those picks might turn out to be good players, the Dolphins could have moved up to select them without giving up a starting wide receiver. The question remains, why did the Dolphins trade Davone Bess?
The first place to look is the depth chart. With the addition of free agent Mike Wallace, and the resigning of Brian Hartline, Bess was going to be the third option in Miami, at best. When the Dolphins signed Brandon Gibson, they looked to move Bess. That was a mistake because Bess is a perfect fit in this offense. These recent additions actually make him a better fit than before. Wallace and Hartline are the clear starters and work well on the outside. Wallace is a great Z receiver. His addition moves Hartline to X and could have opened up the slot for Bess. Miami may view Gibson as a slot receiver, but he is also a speedster who can stretch the field and bust the seam on a defense. Bess is the possession receiver that has been destined to play primarily in the slot.
The lack of receiver depth has forced Miami to use Bess on the outside for the better part of his five years in the league, but it has been evident that his talents make him a gifted slot receiver. He has spent time in the slot, but the power run formations of the past have consistently forced Bess to the outside. In Joe Philbin’s West Coast system, the ball is spread around to a lot of different receivers. The talented receivers on the outside should have allowed Bess to move to the slot and catch slants and hooks underneath the safeties all season.
Bess has a reputation for having some of the best hands in the NFL. He caught 64.2% of passes thrown his way during his career, and only dropped 6 passes last season. He would have been perfect for the position. It seems as if Bess would be a natural fit to play a similar role that Donald Driver played during Philbin’s years in Green Bay. It is curious that Philbin did not want to use Bess at least as a trusty underneath option for Ryan Tannehill, especially on third downs.
The most likely reason for Bess’ departure was money. Bess signed a contract extension with the Dolphins in 2010, giving him over $2.6 million this season. That was probably more than Ireland was willing to pay for his fourth receiver. That makes sense in isolation, but with Ireland’s recent show of aggressive spending in hopes of making the playoffs and keeping his job, cutting Bess loose shows that Ireland viewed him as insignificant. After the trade, Ireland praised Bess, calling him a “consummate professional.” However, Bess wasn’t an Ireland guy. He was one of the last holdovers from the failed Cam Cameron era, and was a hard worker that always produced enough to stick around.
In light of Bess’ salary and the recent acquisitions, trading the receiver makes sense. There is just a nagging feeling that the Dolphins may have missed a chance to finally unlock Bess’ potential and add to a burgeoning offensive attack. Plus, the last time the Dolphins traded away a lightly regarded slot receiver, he went on to average 112 receptions a year and lead the league in receptions three times.