The Chiefs are prioritizing pending free agent safety Eric Berry and could sign him to a long-term deal as early as next week’s NFL scouting combine, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link).
Berry is coming off a stellar season that saw him earn All-Pro honors for the second time, his fourth Pro Bowl nod and AP Comeback Player of the Year. The 27-year-old missed 10 contests in 2014 while battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but he was able to recover in time to return last season and play all 18 of the Chiefs’ games (playoffs included).
Earlier this month, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt spoke of Berry’s importance to the organization.
“Certainly, Eric is somebody that’s very important to the franchise,” Hunt said. “Coach (Andy) Reid and his staff think highly of him. They appreciate the leader that he’s become, and obviously personally, he had the amazing year overcoming cancer. We’ll do everything we can to try to bring him back.”
Berry’s now-expired pact, which he inked after the Chiefs drafted him fifth overall in 2010, ranked second among current safeties in total value ($50.05MM), fourth in AAV at over $8.34MM, and first in guarantees at just under $25.70MM. His next contract should keep him in the elite tier in all three categories.
In the event the Chiefs and Berry are unable to strike a new deal, the team could place the franchise tag on the 6-foot, 212-pounder by March 1 to prevent him from hitting the open market March 9. As PFR’s Luke Adams wrote earlier this week, the franchise price of over $10MM for a safety isn’t exactly cheap, but it wouldn’t be unpalatable in Berry’s case. Moreover, by tagging Berry, the Chiefs would buy themselves extra time to lock him up for the long haul.
While the Chiefs appear willing to do what it takes to retain Berry, they otherwise won’t be big-time players when it comes to handing out sizable contracts this offseason, Cole reports. That means they could lose one of Berry’s top secondary cohorts, cornerback Sean Smith, who’s also unsigned as free agency approaches.
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