With the news that All-Pro safety Eric Berry will report to camp next week to sign his one-year franchise tender, the Kansas City Chiefs organization stands to gain the most from Berry’s return.
As contract talks continued to stall over the last six months, the two sides remain divided over the value of last season’s NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Berry’s remarkable recovery from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma to All-Pro safety has been one of the NFL’s best stories the last decade. In doing the near impossible to defeat cancer and return to an All Pro level, Berry had hoped to cash in last year’s success with a guarantee that surpasses that of Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston.
However, General Manager John Dorsey was not willing to break the bank for his top safety. Sure, he’s paid big bucks to Alex Smith, Justin Houston, Travis Kelce, Eric Fisher and Jeremy Maclin. Of those deals, only the $101 million contract Houston signed as the team's 2015 franchise player didn’t fit the financial logic meter.
Berry’s camp had asked the Chiefs for a contract that included $50 million in guarantees. Reading the tea leaves, that meant Berry’s camp was asking for virtually the entire contract be guaranteed. Though Berry certainly is one of the games top safeties, Kansas City clearly wasn’t inclined to yield to those financial demands.
At an impasse in talks for months and with the season growing closer, Berry ultimately decided Friday that earning nearly $11 million for five months work wasn’t so bad after all.
When Berry arrives next week I’m sure he’ll say the right things and the Chiefs will welcome him with open arms.
Moving forward with the ugliness behind both parties, the key now becomes how Berry will attack the season. Will it be with a chip on his shoulders to earn a contract from Kansas City to end his career in a Chiefs uniform or become a distraction to team unity with the season opener around the corner?
To this stage of his NFL career, Berry has been a leader on and off the field. There’s not a single player in the Chiefs locker room who is going to judge him for attempting to seek as much coin as he can for himself and his family.
With the season opener set for Sept. 11 at Arrowhead against the San Diego Chargers, we can assume Berry has stayed in shape and he’s focused on helping the Chiefs defense, there’s zero doubt he’ll upgrade a steady but young deep KC secondary.
In Berry’s absence, third-year safety Daniel Sorensen has filled in admirably. With veteran Ron Parker holding down the free safety position, Berry will instantly upgrade the back of KC’s defense and give defensive coordinator Bob Sutton an experienced defender that this team needs, if they want to win the AFC West in 2016.
From the perspective of the Kansas fan base, Berry might be the most popular Chiefs player since Tony Gonzalez ever to play at Arrowhead Stadium. He’s a steady performer on the field, and his charitable contributions around the country make him a rare NFL professional.
The fact he overcame one of the biggest obstacles a human being can in facing cancer has only added to the mutual respect he shares within the fiercely loyal Chiefs Kingdom. Had that not been the case during this holdout, perhaps Berry might not be returning to the Chiefs before the start of the regular season.