Chiefs news for 14 March 2019Embed from Getty Images
“We continually evaluate every aspect of our football team and we came to the decision that it was in our best interest to release Eric,” Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach said. “Knowing what Eric has meant to this organization and this city made this an incredibly difficult decision. We wish him nothing but the best.”
The market for safeties was loaded during the free agency tampering window before a flurry of deals were negotiated. Then, within 15 minutes of the new league year officially starting on Wednesday, a new one became available.
The Kansas City Chiefs announced that they have released safety Eric Berry.
The Chiefs are in the process of overhauling their defense under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who took over following the team’s decision to fire previous coordinator Bob Sutton after the 2018 season. Multiple key players have already parted ways with the team in pass rushers Dee Ford (traded to San Francisco) and Justin Houston (released), cornerback Steven Nelson (signed with Pittsburgh), and safety Eric Berry (released), while additions have been made with the reported signing of safety Tyrann Mathieu and linebacker Damien Wilson. Darby, if signed, would likely step into a starting spot at cornerback for the Chiefs whenever he becomes healthy.
In addition to his huge cap hit, Houston didn’t have the versatility to transition to a 4-3 base scheme under new Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Lastly, he’s missed 21 contests over the last four seasons because of injuries—most notably an ACL surgery that cost him several games between the 2015-16 terms.
It hasn’t been all exit ramp for the Chiefs’ defense. They’ve acquired safety Tyrann Mathieu on a three-year, $42 million deal and are expected to sign Cowboys linebacker Damien Wilson as a free agent.
More movement is likely, but one thing is certain. New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will shape a unit without some of the team’s most veteran and honored recent players.
By offering Lucas a 6th round tender, it means that the Chiefs safety is free to try to sign with another team but the team has a right to match any offer he receives. If the Chiefs give him up to that team and refuse to match any deal, the signing team must compensate the Chiefs with a sixth-round pick.
About all that is clear in the moment is that a team that essentially fell a measly, wrenching offside penalty away from that Super Bowl berth has diminished its defense by purging two of its most dynamic players, linebackers Justin Houston and Dee Ford, and a spiritual leader even when hurt in Berry. Also gone, albeit less impactfully, is starting defensive back Steven Nelson.
All for a combined return of … a second-round draft pick in 2020 for Ford, who, yes, was the perpetrator of that offsides gaffe in a game lost to New England for many other reasons, but none that better encapsulated how narrow the difference was in what became a 37-31 overtime loss
It seems unlikely the Chiefs or any other team would commit a large amount of money to sign Verrett given his injury history, but as Rapoport notes, teams are well aware of the ability he brings when healthy.
“I think there’s a perception you want length and size to play the position, but it can look different,” Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said of Verrett in June of 2018. “His skillset, what he has, his speed, his athleticism, his change of direction, it is elite.”
The team was optimistic a few weeks ago when Berry traveled to Green Bay to get a second opinion from Dr. Bob Anderson on his right heel, the part of his body that forced him to miss 15 games last season. Anderson told Berry, a five-time Pro Bowler, that his heel could mend itself without a procedure. Berry wanted to return to the team to prove himself yet again, but the Chiefs ultimately decided that his inability to stay on the field — in playing just four games in the last two seasons — and his large contract were too much of a gamble.
The Chiefs will designate Berry’s release to be executed after June 1. The move saves the team $9.55 million in salary cap space.