Jamaal Charles’ sterling nine-year run in Kansas City has come to an end, as the Chiefs announced Tuesday they have released the star running back.
Charles, 30, was set to enter the last year of his contract, which came with a $7 million salary cap number. The Chiefs will gain approximately $6.187 million in cap savings by releasing him.
“I have a great deal of admiration for Jamaal Charles, his toughness, and what he’s been able to achieve in his time in Kansas City,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said in a release from the team announcing Charles’ release. “These decisions are never easy, but we felt it was in the best interests of the club to move on at this time. We wish Jamaal and his family the best of luck in their next step.”
The move ends a largely brilliant tenure for Charles, who leaves the Chiefs as their career rushing leader with 7,260 yards — nearly 1,200 more than Priest Holmes.
Charles’ career yards-per-carry average of 5.5 ranks first among NFL running backs, ahead of Hall of Famers Jim Brown, 5.2, Gale Sayers, 5.0, and Barry Sanders, 5.0.
“I’d like to thank Jamaal Charles for his contributions and dedication over the last nine seasons,” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said. “Jamaal has been one of the most prolific players in our organization’s history, and I have an enormous amount of respect for what he has accomplished. He’ll always be a part of the Chiefs family, and we’ll be ready to honor him for his outstanding playing career when the time is right.”
In many ways, the right anterior cruciate ligament that Charles tore against the Chicago Bears in October 2015 was the beginning of the end of his run in Kansas City. He rehabbed the knee and returned for the Chiefs’ Week 4 game last season against Pittsburgh, eventually logging season-highs with 11 touches and 15 snaps in an Oct. 16 win over Oakland.
But Charles’ knee swelled after a practice the following week, and he only logged two snaps Oct. 23 against the Saints. He missed the next game against Indianapolis and visited noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews shortly thereafter, a move that eventually landed him on injured reserve after rushing only 12 times for 40 yards and a touchdown.
At the time, Chiefs head trainer Rick Burkholder said there was a belief Charles had a meniscus tear. Andrews told Charles that was indeed the case, and Charles was grateful it wasn’t another ACL tear.
“A meniscus is minor in comparison,” Charles wrote in a blog post on his website, jamaalcharles25.com. “People have played through it, and guys tolerate that. My body wasn’t adapting to it, but that’s OK. I was thankful my ACL was still intact because it meant there was still a chance for me.”
Charles made the decision to have surgery — some players opt to let it heal naturally or play through it — but he said the team supported his decision.
“A lot of guys on my team I’ve talked to, they were very supportive of me, and telling me to go ahead and do it,” Charles wrote.
Charles said he was happy he had that surgery, and another one afterward on his other knee that cleaned up more damage. Since then, he’s been rehabbing with Andrews in Pensacola, Fla.
“Dr. Andrews is the best doctor I’ve ever met,” Charles wrote. “He’s always honest with me, and very supportive of me through this whole process. I’m happy to be working with him and all the great people he has on his staff.”
Charles has indicated a desire to play four more years or so, and a source says the 5-foot-11, 199-pounder expects to be 100 percent for offseason training.
However, the next step in his journey — and Charles certainly wants to make the Hall of Fame someday — will be somewhere other than in Kansas City, as a reunion in the immediate future appears unlikely.
“I’ve been privileged to work with a lot of talented players over the years, and Jamaal Charles ranks up there with the great ones,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I appreciate the way he came to work every day, he gave us everything he had day-in and day-out. I’ve said it before, I think he’s a future Hall of Famer.”
Since Charles’ injury against Chicago, the Chiefs are 25-5 in the regular season, as youngsters Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West have carried the load. Ware emerged as the Chiefs’ top rusher this year, running 214 times for 921 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games while West chipped in with 293 yards and a touchdown in 88 carries.
The Chiefs finished 15th in rushing and 16th in yards per carry, though some of that had to do with a few explosive runs by rookie Tyreek Hill, who started taking some carries late in the season and gave the offense the kind of home-run threat out of the backfield that Charles so memorably provided for so many years.
Chiefs career rushing leaders