The Browns have cut ties with longtime player development director and former assistant coach Jerry Butler, two sources have confirmed.
The move is a surprising one given Butler's longevity with the team and in the league and the respect he's earned in NFL circles. The Browns made some confirmed cuts on the business side of their operations earlier in the offseason but have not laid off employees or cut wages due to the NFL lockout.
Butler, whose nine-year NFL playing career included being named AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Bills in 1979, served as the Browns' wide receivers coach in 1999 and 2000 under then-coach Chris Palmer. He moved into his role as director of player development the following year.
In his role as director of player development he oversaw programs for the team's rookie class, set up educational opportunities for the players year-round and worked with the players on a daily basis in a variety of on and off-field matters. The role of player development director has become more important with many franchises in recent years given the NFL's emphasis on off-field conduct and more recently in preparing players for the lockout.
Butler often traveled with the team and worked in the pressbox with the Browns assistant coaches on game days when Romeo Crennel was the head coach. Butler worked seven years in the Bills' front office before joining the "new" Browns in 1999.
According to Butler's bio on the team's official website, Butler received the 2003-2004 Winston-Shell Award for innovation and commitment to player development, and the 2007 Outstanding Financial Education Program for innovation. The bio also says Butler currently serves on the NFL's Player Development Executive Steering Committee.