KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs gained extra time Tuesday to get a multiyear deal done with one of the league’s premier safeties.
The Chiefs applied the non-exclusive franchise designation on Eric Berry ahead of the start of free agency on March 9. The move prevents Berry from entering the market as an unrestricted free agent.
“Our goal is to keep Eric in Kansas City for the foreseeable future,” general manager John Dorsey said in a statement. “He’s a special player that means a lot to our organization, the city, and has been a critical piece in building our foundation. With today being the deadline to use the franchise tag, we felt it was in the best interest of the club to place the tag on Eric.”
With the non-exclusive franchise designation, other teams can negotiate with Berry, but the Chiefs can match any offer. If the Chiefs choose to not match an offer, the team signing Berry would owe the Chiefs compensation in the form of two first-round draft picks.
The Chiefs now have until July 15 to work with Berry’s representative on a multiyear contract or extension, in accordance with NFL rules.
After July 15, Berry can only sign a one-year contract with the Chiefs for the 2016 season, which under the franchise designation for the safety position carries a $10.8 million price tag.
Additionally, discussion on a long-term deal between Berry and the Chiefs after July 15 will need to wait until the conclusion of the 2016 regular season.
The 27-year-old Berry played the past season less than a year removed from being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. He entered the season in the final year of his contract and earned a base salary of $5.1 million.
His return to football became one of the NFL’s biggest stories and he went on to earn first-team All-Pro honors by The Associated Press, which also recognized Berry as the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
Berry, who moved from strong safety to free safety in 2015, finished the regular season appearing in all 16 games (15 starts). He produced 61 tackles (55 solo), two interceptions and 10 passes defensed.