Chiefs’ season officially over, now have decisions to make on looming free agents

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Chiefs have a long offseason to ponder Saturday’s 27-20 loss to the New England Patriots.

Jan. 16, 2016; Foxborough, MA; Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency in March, speaks to the media following the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Jan. 16, 2016; Foxborough, MA; Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency in March, speaks to the media following the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

A game of what ifs are sure to ensue, the visualizing of missed plays, but the matters of playing football will take a back seat to the business side in less than two months when the league’s calendar year kicks off March 9.

And the Chiefs have a big decision on looming unrestricted free agents, including strong safety Eric Berry, defensive end Jaye Howard, cornerback Sean Smith, left guard Jeff Allen and safety Husain Abdullah, among others.

The list certainly isn’t short of high-profile contributors, all of whom wouldn’t mind staying put if a deal can get done.

“This is family,” Berry said. “At the same time, we will sit down and talk about it when we talk about it, but right now I’m just thankful for my teammates, my coaches and everybody that has something to do with me being back on the field this year. This is something special. Like I said, we’ll talk about it.”

The 27-year-old Berry, who earned a base salary of $5.1 million in 2015, is arguably the Chiefs’ biggest decision after he returned from Hodgkin lymphoma to be named a first-team All-Pro and was voted to the Pro Bowl.

But Howard certainly made large contributions to the defense, appearing in 16 games with 14 starts, totaling 36 tackles and career-high 5½ sacks.

“I want to come back,” Howard said. “These are my brothers I’m going to war with — (Dontari) Poe, (Allen) Bailey and Nick Williams, (Mike) DeVito. I want to be a part of this. This is just the beginning right now that we started. We can make a run for years, especially with our D-line group, so hopefully it works out.”

The 27-year-old Howard, who played the past regular season earning a base salary of $660,000, said he hopes something can get done before the start of free agency.

But he also indicated the need to take care of loved ones and hopes his production is enough to get a lucrative deal accomplished.

“Ultimately and truthfully, I got to take care of my family at this point,” Howard said. “I want to be paid like one of the top D-linemen in this league, and I felt like I deserve that. I played well enough to get that and hopefully we can get something done. I’d love to be back here.”

The 28-year-old Smith, who originally joined the Chiefs in 2013 on a three-year deal, earned a base salary of $4.25 million in 2015.

A cornerback with Smith’s skills likely will command a high price on the open market, but he wants to return where he is comfortable.

“This is home,” Smith said. “I love being here.”

The 26-year-old Allen came into his own the past season, proving his versatility to play guard or tackle.

Allen earned a base salary of $973,249 the past season, and he knows any return to Kansas City requires negotiations.

“I would like to be back here,” Allen said, “but honestly it takes two sides. I’ll leave it at that.”

Allen added the primary reason he wants to return surrounds the team atmosphere.

“It’s a family, it’s truly a family,” he said. “In my four years here, I’ve gained a lot of relationships with a lot of different people, not just my teammates and staff, everybody — trainers, coaches, guys in the maintenance department.

“It’s like a family watching you grow. I’ve done a lot of growing up since I’ve been here. I love the community. I have a family now and we love the community, so it’s definitely a place we would like to call home.”

The 30-year-old Abdullah, who earned a base salary of $745,000 the past season, echoed Allen on the environment as a primary reason for his desire to remain with the Chiefs.

“As long as they want me to be here, I want to be here,” Abdullah said. “It’s a great place, a great organization top to bottom. It’s a great group of guys.

“You hate going into this time of the year because you know from playing on the field, no team is the same. But I wish we could have the same team, go to battle with this same team next year because I have faith this team could win it all.”

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Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.

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