News & Analysis

How Eric Berry deal affects Dontari Poe, Chiefs' offseason options

Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) lines up against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Kansas City has taken the first step in negotiating a tricky offseason by agreeing to a deal to retain safety Eric Berry for six years at a whopping $13 million per season. Playing under the franchise tag in 2016, Berry earned his extension with an AP All-Pro campaign, the best of his seven-year career. The dollar figures, though, are unprecedented for the position. With limited cap space already, the Chiefs will be forced to sacrifice talent to find a solution to their finances.

Safety value

As the financial details continue to trickle in, it will be easier to judge Berry’s deal, but his new contract sets a precedent for the top safeties in the NFL. Berry is arguably one of the top safeties in the league, but his deal dwarfs other candidates like New England's Devin McCourty and Seattle's Earl Thomas, despite roughly similar production.

  • Eric Berry (Chiefs), 87.6 overall season grade: $13 million per year
  • Tyrann Mathieu (Cardinals), 74.3, $12.5 million per year
  • Harrison Smith (Vikings), 85.4, $10.25 million per year
  • Earl Thomas (Seahawks), 84.1, $10 million per year
  • Devin McCourty (Patriots), 89.6, $9.5 million per year

A team with endless financial capacity would have no qualms about signing one of the league’s best defensive playmakers to such a large contract. Sadly, the Chiefs were already cash-strapped before even factoring in Berry and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s new deals.

The sacrifices

Following the Berry news, it was also announced that Jamaal Charles has been released. The former standout running back managed only 27 snaps last year, coming immediately after an injury-curtailed 2015. Realistically, releasing Charles was a no-brainer, with a saving of $6.2 million this year. Beyond him, however, Kansas City have some difficult decisions to make.

Head Coach Andy Reid loves quarterbacks. He understands the value of having multiple capable signal-callers on the roster. Nick Foles will test the value Reid places on the position, however, as the Chiefs can also release him and save $6.75 million. Along with Foles, rumors continue to circle around wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. The other former Eagle can be released to save $5.2 million, opening up another significant chunk of change. Together, releasing Foles and Maclin would significantly boost the likelihood of the Chiefs tagging NT Dontari Poe, but is the big nose tackle worth it?

Paying Poe?

Ostensibly, a backup nose tackle and underperforming wideout are well worth the price of a starting nose tackle. Poe has not reached the heights he achieved as a sophomore, however. He managed a lowly 46.5 overall season grade in 2016, his worst since his rookie year. Poe’s run-defending production fell off a cliff this past season. In more snaps (333) than the year prior (307), he managed only 18 tackles and 12 stops. In contrast, Poe managed 31 tackles and 22 stops in 2015. He did significantly boost his pass-rush production, but not since his sophomore season has Poe made a consistent impact collapsing the pocket.

Although he suffered a disappointing year, Maclin remains the Chiefs’ second-best wideout on the perimeter. Tyreek Hill had a stunning rookie year, but young depth players Chris Conley and Albert Wilson remain some way off the requisite standard. Maclin was second amongst the Chiefs’ wide receiver corps in yards per route run (1.39), touchdowns (two), deep receptions (four) and deep yardage (127).

Bottom line

The Chiefs face a quandary with such little room to maneuver and a number of players set to hit free agency. The front office must judge the value of a starting nose tackle against one of their more productive receivers and backup quarterback. There is little belief left in Nick Foles in NFL circles, but Reid represents the exception. His West Coast offense does not require outstanding receivers to function, but Maclin’s release would open a hole on the roster not easily filled.

Eric Berry represents the first domino in the Chiefs’ offseason—where will the others fall?

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.

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