Anyone that knows the incredible accolades I threw at Eric Berry last season after triumphantly defeating cancer should understand, I think the man is super human. The path he made from his Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis in 2014 to become an All Pro NFL player in 2015 is beyond any words that can be written about that young man.
Yet despite that heartfelt sentiment, the NFL has never pretended to be anything other than what it is today, a business. Sadly, Berry and his representatives are indeed caught in that financial trap of demand of new riches versus common sense and practicality.
Sure the Chiefs would have loved to sign Berry to a long term deal rewarding a player of his caliber with another round of riches. Yet they can’t just give him a hearty signing bonus and guarantee the majority of his contract just because of the sentiment attached to his remarkable comeback last season.
If life worked that way, and it does not in the NFL, then Chiefs Chairman Clark Hunt should have given Berry a blank check. To be honest, I can’t really argue on that basis he doesn’t deserve one. However, the Chiefs must be fiscally responsible in regards to any contract and that’s why they were unable to extend Berry’s contract beyond the franchise state.
To date in his young NFL career, Berry has earned $50,044.30 in base pay and bonus money. Add another $1.5 million in workout dollars and nearly $15 million in contract restructuring dollars that allowed the Chiefs to maneuver up and down the salary – plus another $5.2 Million in miscellaneous bonuses, that’s a lot of Iron in your bank account.
Further, if you add the franchise tag of $10.8 million he’s set to earn in 2016, Berry has much to be thankful for these days besides his health.
Listen, I’m all for players getting every coin they can muster from NFL owners. On the flip side, the Chiefs organization has shelled out hundreds of millions to keep their core together for a championship run.
In my view, Berry should be part of that run this season. However, if the term ‘being held hostage’ and the words like ‘angry’ describe his true sentiments, the Chiefs All Pro Safety and the organization, have little choice but to deal Berry to another NFL franchise. Let’s be clear that’s the only option on the table because releasing him is something the Chiefs organization should never consider.
To that logic, three teams come to mine that make sense for Berry. The Atlanta Falcons come to mind because Berry is a Georgia native and because former Chiefs GM, Scott Pioli drafted him in 2010.
Other teams who could use Berry include the Los Angeles Rams, and in particular the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Adding his caliber of play on the field would be ideal for those teams, but what he could bring in team chemistry to the Rams and Bucs, would be invaluable in the locker room.
During his stay in Kansas City, Berry has been nothing but a model citizen with a big charitable heart. He was the NFL’s greatest comeback story last season and he deserves one more big contract but the Chiefs aren’t likely going to be that team. Though losing Berry would hurt KC’s defense this season, they have some young, but unproven, safeties that need significant playing time to develop.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish Berry would run out of the Arrowhead tunnel come opening day, but I’m not in the belief these two entities have become marriage no longer in NFL Heaven. By trading Berry, the Chiefs could expect a 2017 first round pick and probably a high quality player, that could add potential starting options at offensive line or linebacker.
If the Chiefs can make that happen, and shore up a pair of weak spots on their roster, it would be a big win for the organization. Still any trade would create fan backlash. Berry is beloved at the core of every KC football fan in the country and has become a national spokesperson for Lymphoma patients all over the world.
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As the sickening thought arises that #29 might not be in a Chiefs uniform again, I can say without hesitation, the love and admiration this brave soldier showed Chiefs fans and cancer patients within the sports community, should be the gold standard in which we remember the totality of his entire career in Kansas City.