KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Bright smiles and the sound of laughter filled the North Kansas City High School football stadium Friday evening as Chiefs safety Eric Berry hosted 350 local youth attending his annual football camp.
Berry’s smile and enthusiasm matched the participants and it was clear he looked forward to interacting with the children attending the event.
The camp, however, isn’t the only thing that has the All-Pro safety’s attention when considering he has yet to sign a one-year, $10.8 million franchise tender.
Making his first appearance with local media since the Chiefs lost in the divisional round of the playoffs, Berry took a moment to reflect on the status of his contract.
“I thought it would progress a little bit more, but it’s still been pretty much the same since the last time we talked,” Berry said. “A lot can change in a week; a lot can change from whenever the deadline is.”
The deadline Berry alludes to is July 15 for teams around the league to sign players under the franchise designation to a multiyear contract or extension. After July 15, Berry can only sign the one-year franchise tag and any long-term contract can’t be worked out until the end of the 2016 regular season.
Kansas City would certainly benefit by locking up Berry to a long-term deal given the team’s salary cap situation. The Chiefs currently have $226,818 in available cap space, which includes Berry’s current franchise tag, but a multiyear contract would free much-needed cap space.
Berry, who is set to enter his seventh season, didn’t offer particulars on contract negotiations between his representative and the Chiefs, emphasizing he is focused on training to be prepared for the regular season.
And while he said he preferred to let the contract situation handle itself, Berry left no doubt on a preferred outcome.
“Obviously, I would love to be a Chief,” Berry said. “I want to be a Chief long-term just because of the community, the staff, from top to bottom, the players and everything.
“That’s what I’m really focused on, but sometimes things don’t go as planned and I’m prepared for that. But, hopefully, it goes as planned and I’m prepared for that, as well. So, that’s why I’m handling everything I can do on my end to make sure I don’t slip.”
Meanwhile, Berry hasn’t gone through the past months alone and he said outside linebacker Justin Houston has been in touch with him.
Houston has personal knowledge of what Berry is going through when it comes to contract negotiations after Houston experienced it in 2015. The Chiefs placed the franchise tag on Houston during the offseason before agreeing to a six-year, $101 million deal on July 15 of the past year.
“It’s crazy because I was talking to him when he was going through the exact same thing,” Berry said with a chuckle. “It’s like the roles have switched just a year later.”
The words of wisdom Houston recently offered his teammate offered a case of déjà vu.
“The biggest thing is he keeps telling me to be patient, just control what I can control,” Berry said. “I gave him that advice and he’s giving me that same advice. That’s all I can is control what I can control and hopefully everything works out.”