INDIANAPOLIS – Defensive end Mike DeVito didn’t take long after the Chiefs’ season ended to realize how much he wants to get back to football.
“It was the first week I got home, I was watching the Denver-New England game and I was just like I still have that passion inside, like, man, I wish I was out there,” DeVito said Friday in a telephone interview. “If I felt that a week after getting done with the season, I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like in August.”
There is an unknown to consider with the late summer scenario because DeVito is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 9.
Kansas City, however, remains an option.
The Chiefs recently reached out to DeVito’s representatives and expressed interest in retaining DeVito, a source familiar with the negotiation process informed ChiefsDigest.com and The Topeka Capital-Journal. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Chiefs have not announced the talks.
The 6-3, 305-pound DeVito, who turns 32 on June 10, would happily entertain another stint with the Chiefs.
“Where I’m at in my stage, you don’t want to go to a new system, new coaches, there’s a lot of stress that goes into that,” said DeVito, who is set to enter his 10th season in the NFL. “It’s really a blessing to go back to a place you already know, coaches you’re familiar with.”
The relationships built over the past three seasons also carry weight in any decision.
“I love Coach (Andy) Reid,” DeVito said. “John Dorsey, he’s the best general manager in the NFL. I tell you, just as a friend I like to talk to him – he’s a great guy.
“I love the organization over there, I love the coaching staff, I love the guys in that locker room, I believe in the mission, I believe in the philosophy, so that’s an easy choice.”
Nevertheless, DeVito understands the business side of the NFL and returning to Kansas City isn’t guaranteed.
DeVito experienced the free agency process in 2013 after spending the first six seasons of his career with the New York Jets (2007-12) as an undrafted free agent out of Maine.
He signed a three-year, $12.6 million deal with the Chiefs on March 12, 2013 before agreeing to restructure his contract in March 2015, which cut his base pay from $3.75 million to $870,000 the past season.
DeVito said money, however, isn’t the top priority as he gets set to enter free agency, barring a re-signing in Kansas City.
“There are a lot of factors that maybe the second or third time I hit free agency I wouldn’t have considered that you consider now because financially and all that stuff, we’ve had the big payday, so you’re not seeking that,” he said. “Financially isn’t the only motive that’s driving the decision.”
Outside of finances, the areas DeVito said he will consider with the full support of his wife, Jessi, include familiarity, postseason opportunity and the locker room atmosphere.
But he made it clear he won’t play for free and the right situation must present itself.
“Now they’re an important part of it – you don’t want to go back and play for nothing – but they’re not the only part of it,” DeVito said. “That makes free agency a little bit less stressful, a little bit more fun. You can see the different options and make decisions based off of different types of things than normally you would make off a financial situation.”
Regardless where DeVito lands, a team will have a player still capable of producing.
He returned from a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in Week 1 of the 2014 season and appeared in 13 games with five starts in 2015, totaling 19 tackles (13 solo) and a career-high three sacks as part of a defensive line rotation.
DeVito emphasized he is 100 percent healthy after dealing with a shoulder injury and two concussions, ailments that caused him to miss three games the past season. And he is willing to take on whatever role a team requires of him.
“You want to be the best and the best means you’re starting,” he said. “So, obviously, you work for that, but you also recognize a lot of young guys coming up and so you see how it plays out. But you play like you’re going to start, and then wherever that lands you I’m thankful for it.”
Prospective employers will also have a player capable of drawing admiration from teammates.
“He is such a humble guy, a God-fearing man, it’s awesome” Chiefs offensive lineman Jarrod Pughsley said in a recent telephone interview. “Mike is a guy I would really like to be like when I’m older.”
In the meantime, DeVito is at an age where most players begin contemplating retirement, but he has numerous reasons why that isn’t an option on the table.
His desire, ability to produce and the offering of a veteran presence are valuable attributes, and his love of the game isn’t disappearing in the near future.
All he needs now is a place to call home in 2016, whether it is with the Chiefs or another organization.
“My passion and love for the game has grown over the past couple of years,” DeVito said. “That was really a deciding factor when I was talking to my wife is I still love to do this, I still love to play this game.
“To not go back for any other reason, I think I would be kicking myself because I still love it, I still have the ability to play at a high level. And so when you have those two things, why wouldn’t you come back?”