Emotions have been running high throughout the Chiefs Kingdom, ever since the Chiefs franchise tagged Eric Berry at the end of the 2015 season. A whole year of “will he, won’t he” came to an amazing climax on the penultimate day before the franchise tag deadline.
As news was filtering through social media about Eric Berry becoming the highest paid Safety in the NFL, signing a whopping 6 year deal worth $78m ($40m guaranteed) fans began celebrating that they had got their man tied into a long term deal and “EB” would be a Chief for life.
However, the celebrations were suddenly put on ice, as that sinking feeling began to take hold. Fans were left scratching their heads and wondering “where did the Chiefs find the extra cap space to complete such a mega deal?” … the answer was almost instantaneous …
As quickly as Berry signed, Jamaal Charles’ 9 seasons had come to an abrupt end. The Chiefs all time leader in rushing yards (7,260) and the NFL’s all time leader in yards per carry (5.5) was now the sacrificial lamb that was, in all honesty, an inevitable outcome.
It’s no secret that Chiefs GM, John Dorsey, has had to earn his money recently to keep on top of the cap space situation at Arrowhead, and although it wasn’t what the fans wanted to hear, a lot of them understood the reason behind the decision to release Charles.
Charles’ 9 seasons haven’t always been rosey, especially during the last 2 seasons where he’s played a total of 7 games after suffering a second ACL repair in Week 6 of the 2015 season. With a player on a salary of $7m per year, there’s only so long a franchise can fork out that kind of money before it starts to affect the team’s finances. But when healthy, Charles has been electrifying to watch.
Football is a business, and a cruel one at that, but it works both ways. Players demand high wages based on their performance and position within a roster, they know their careers are relatively short, even more so for Running Backs. But when big name players suffer long term injuries, that’s when a franchise will look to trim down player contracts with tough negotiating.
The Chiefs have been more than patient with Charles, maybe it’s because Chiefs owner Clark Hunt understands player/team loyalty more than other owners? Or maybe he just simply understands what the fans want and can understand the fans love for their favourite players? Only he can answer that.
From a fans perspective, I was heartbroken when the announcement was released. Ever since I started watching the Chiefs, Jamaal Charles has been the stalwart, explosive RB that excited me every time I saw him dance and cut his way through defences. He was the face of the franchise, the last player I would ever think the Chiefs would release.
There’s no doubt in my mind Charles will be a future Hall of Famer, and that the Chiefs will honour yet another of their greatest Running Back’s, Hunt even said in his statement that the franchise will honour him when the time is right. However, there are already calls to retire jersey number 25 as a mark of respect towards a legendary player … and he hasn’t even retired yet!
Let’s not forget though, the Chiefs have locked in Eric Berry to a 6 year mega deal. There are fans out there that question such a huge deal for the position of Safety, but Berry isn’t just any other Safety, he’s a leader, he not only leads the Defence, but he leads the entire Chiefs roster, on and off the field, the “Pick-2” in Atlanta in the 2016 season being the one that sticks out the most. Berry instils confidence in everyone around him because nothing can stop him, not even cancer! A player like that on your team is worth paying the money for because you know, When youth players line up in that tunnel before a game and see the name BERRY staring back at them, they’re going into battle knowing he’s got their backs! It adds that extra 10% to player confidence knowing you’re on the field with a living legend.
It’s been a turbulent time for Chiefs fans, not only because of Charles’ instant departure, but Chiefs fans have also had the headache of weighing up which player they’d like to keep the most, Poe or Berry? Ask yourself this. When it was looking like both Eric Berry and Poe were heading to Free Agency, which player did fans of other NFL teams want the most? … that’s right, ERIC BERRY!
There’s no doubt both are essential players in their positions, but Berry has that extra something that makes him essential, not only for the D, but for the whole roster, on the field and in the locker room. The guy is a born leader and that’s why you pay big money for players like him, to be the glue that bonds the team together.
One thing is for sure, there will be more and more Berry jerseys hanging around Arrowhead next season.