KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs safety Eric Berry told the NFL Network he does not feel comfortable playing a second-straight season under the cloud of a franchise tag.
“I’m definitely not going to play under a franchise tag this year,” Berry said.
Berry’s declaration appears less a line in the sand than a desire for a long-term deal in Kansas City opposed to hitting the road through free agency. The veteran safety reiterated again the desire to say with the Chiefs.
“I want to end my career in Kansas City,” Berry said. “I want to play there. I love the city, I love the vibe, I love my teammates. I really look at them more than teammates. We’ve been through a lot and they supported me a lot. And the organization. But I don’t feel comfortable playing under a franchise tag this year.”
Berry sat out much of the offseason and training camp after he and the Chiefs failed to agree on a long-term contract. He ended his holdout Aug. 28, signing the franchise tag tender of $11.8 million. Berry turned in a stellar season, landing his third All-Pro award and fifth Pro Bowl honor.
If the Chiefs tagged the 28-year-old safety for a second time, his salary cap number jumps to almost $13 million.
That number is close to the potential franchise tag number for Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe. The franchise tag could be more valuable to the team with Poe, if a long-term deal with Berry comes to fruition.
A fair market deal for Berry likely lands close to the contracts of Arizona defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and Minnesota free safety Harrison Smith. Mathieu’s contract totals $62.5 million over five seasons with $21.5 million guaranteed.
Smith signed last year for $51.25 million over five seasons with $15.3 million guaranteed at signing.
A long-term deal with Berry also allows the Chiefs significant short-term salary cap relief. Mathieu’s contract carried just a $4.3 million cap hit in year one and $8.1 million next season, while never exceeding $14.1 million.
That relief would provide critical for the Chiefs. OverTheCap.com projects the Chiefs with just more than $4.1 million in available cap space for the 2017 season. That does not include any potential roster moves or contract renegotiations. It also does not include either Berry or Poe.