With the Kansas City Chiefs heading to training camp, many players have much riding on the 2016 season.
Below is a look at six players who should have plenty of motivation:
MOST TO GAIN
Defensive tackle Dontari Poe – Poe is playing the 2016 season under a fifth-year option, and a very lucrative contract could be in his future. This offseason, Philadelphia defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, selected immediately following Poe in the 2012 draft, re-signed with the Eagles for $102 million. Former Bronco Malik Jackson signed with Jacksonville for $85.5 million. Poe was among the league’s most durable defensive tackles during his first three season, but his tackle totals have declined three straight seasons. A rebound season puts Poe in line for a big payday, or forces the Chiefs use the franchise tag.
Outside linebacker Dee Ford – With Justin Houston coming off ACL surgery, Ford needs to live up to his status as a 2014 first-round draft pick. Ford, who has two seasons remaining on his rookie contact, needs a big year for the Chiefs to consider using a fifth-year option on him before signing him to a long-term deal.
Safety Jamell Fleming – With Eric Berry’s training camp status in doubt and the departures of Husain Abdullah and Tyvon Branch, the safety position is wide open. It’s a tremendous opportunity for the cornerback-turned-safety to stake his claim as either a starter or key backup.
MOST TO LOSE
Safety Eric Berry – The Pro Bowl safety is rolling the dice that 2017 will bring a bigger contract than the Chiefs offered this offseason. While the Chiefs could tag Berry again next season, they would have to offer a contract of $12.96 million to keep Berry one more season. That seems unlikely. If Berry suffers an injury or his play declines, he may regret not signing a long-term deal with the Chiefs this summer.
Quarterbacks Aaron Murray and Tyler Bray – The Chiefs have used injured reserve the last two seasons to juggle roster slots for both Murray and Bray. Add 2016 fifth-round draft pick Kevin Hogan to the competition, and it could be the end of the line for one of the veterans. Neither quarterback unseated Chase Daniel as Alex Smith’s backup, but both should be given plenty of opportunity during camp and the preseason.
Eric Fisher – The Chiefs have already picked up the fifth-year option for Fisher and he’s in line to make $11.9 million in 2017. But the Chiefs could walk away with no salary cap hit. Fisher was an enigma for much of his first two seasons before coming on midway through the past season, capping it off with a strong performance against the Houston Texans in the postseason. With a large cap hit in 2017, he needs to prove his worth and show last year wasn’t a fluke.