Last year, the Chiefs paid safety Eric Berry $10.8 million for one year under the franchise tag. This year, it’s still not known whether the two sides will find a way to continue the relationship.
Berry insists that he won’t play under the franchise tag in 2017. At a 20-percent increase over his 2016 pay, which becomes $12.96 million, that’s a lot to walk away from — especially when the top of the safety market is less than $10.5 million per year. For one more year under the franchise tag, Berry would outpace the annual $12.5 million average arising from Tyrann Mathieu’s hybrid safety/cornerback deal.
Berry has every right to push for the security that comes from a long-term deal. However, until the deadline comes and goes for applying the franchise tag, Berry shouldn’t consider a penny less than $12.96 million for the first year.
After the deadline passes (and if the tag isn’t applied), Berry’s value will be driven by the open market. At that point, however, he’ll be free to go wherever he wants. Like, for example, back to Georgia.
Berry had a huge role in Kansas City’s regular-season win over the Falcons. With the Falcons now reeling from a 25-point collapse in the Super Bowl, who better than Berry — who has overcome cancer — to help the Falcons move past one of the low points in franchise history? So even though the Falcons may not need to go outside the current roster in free agency, Berry is the kind of luxury that they should maybe find a way to afford.
If it ever gets to that point, it will mean that the Chiefs and Berry have failed to work out a long-term deal and that the Chiefs have opted not to apply the tag. Before the Chiefs can make that decision, they should consider the impact on the locker room of losing a guy like Berry.
For a little sense of how that would be received, here’s our Super Bowl-week chat with Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, who explained the importance of keeping Berry around.