After trading last year with the Dolphins for receiver Davone Bess, the Browns gave Bess a new contract. It included $3.067 million in guaranteed base salary for 2014.
Per a league source, the team plans to take the position that the guarantee has voided.
While the salary is guaranteed for skill, injury, or cap, Bess landed last season on the non-football illness list. While the Browns exercised their discretion to pay his salary for the rest of 2013, the team believes (we’re told) that the guarantees evaporated as a result of his inability to play in 2013.
Bess would have the right to challenge the voiding of his guarantee, and the final determination will hinge on the language of the contract between Bess and the Dolphins. Under Article 4, Section 9(g) of the labor deal, teams and players may negotiate the circumstances under which future salary guarantees will void.
During his introductory press conference, new G.M. Ray Farmer didn’t specify the team’s plans for Bess.
“We are in communication,” Farmer said. “I can’t comment too much about where the circumstance is. Just understand that we are concerned for Davone, and I think that’s the biggest thing, is to make sure that he gets the help that he needs. . . . The biggest thing is that Davone’s care and his concern is our biggest thing right now. The dates are inconsequential. Moving forward, we’ll make the decision that we need to make for our franchise, as well as making sure that he’s going to get the care and the things that he needs in the process.”
If Bess can’t play, and if his inability to play is unrelated to an injury, there’s no reason for the Browns to pay him. But voiding the guarantee doesn’t mean he’ll be cut; there’s a chance the Browns will give him time to recover, and an opportunity to earn his non-guaranteed salary.