KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs crossed off the No. 1 item on their offseason to-do list with the signing of team MVP Eric Berry to the richest contract for a safety in the National Football League.
General manager John Dorsey maintained positive expectations in recent weeks regarding a new deal for Berry. He issued a statement expressing his happiness in getting the contract signed.
“Keeping Eric Berry in a Chiefs uniform long-term has been a significant goal of ours,” Dorsey said. “He’s a special football player and an incredible person. We’re thrilled we were able to get this deal done.”
The six-year, $78 million contract reportedly provides a guaranteed $20 million at signing and a total of $40 million guaranteed. The agreement between the two sides arrived just more than 24 hours before the league’s deadline to designate franchise or transition players. The Chiefs have until 3 p.m. central time Wednesday if they wish to tag a pending free agent.
Berry’s new deal averages $13 million per season, ranking him just ahead of Arizona’s Tyrann Mathieu for the league’s top-paid safety. Berry’s total contract of $78 million exceeds the $62.5 million contract extension Mathieu signed last year.
The contract extension for Berry includes $40 million guaranteed at signing, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. That includes a reported $20 million signing bonus.
The $40 million guaranteed for a safety nearly doubles the $22 million guaranteed to New England safety Devin McCourty.
Berry’s relationship with both the team and fans grew more emotional following his cancer diagnosis in November 2014. Berry won comeback player of the year honors in 2015, and followed that with arguably his career-best season in 2016.
Coach Andy Reid kept in close touch with Berry through his cancer treatments. The two have developed a special relationship, growing far beyond simply player and coach.
“I’m very happy for Eric and his family,” Reid said in a statement. “He has put in the hard work and preparation, and is without question one of the backbones of our defense and a team leader. He’s a special player and an exceptional human being.”
The signing of Berry draws a close to a year-long standoff between the All-Pro safety and the Chiefs. The team placed the franchise tag on Berry last season. The two sides failed to come to terms on a new contract, with Berry holding out much of the preseason before reporting to the team.
Berry stated publicly he would not sign the franchise tender again in 2017. The new contract likely helps the Chiefs save valuable salary cap space while avoiding another lengthy showdown with the face of the team’s defense.