The Chiefs and safety Eric Berry remain far apart on a contract extension, a source confirmed to The Star on Thursday.
The two sides have until 3 p.m. Friday to get an extension done.
In the absence of a new deal, the 27-year-old Berry would play the 2016 season under the one-year, $10.8 million franchise tag.
However, Berry — in the absence of a new deal — could also hold off on signing the one-year tender, which would allow him to skip training camp and the preseason and return shortly before the regular season and still collect his full salary.
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This isn’t the first time the Chiefs have taken it to the wire with a franchise player. A year ago, they negotiated up until the deadline before inking outside linebacker Justin Houston to a six-year, $101 million extension.
A new deal would make sense for both sides. Although the franchise tender is good money (and guaranteed) Berry stands to collect far more guaranteed money with a new deal. He has two more All-Pro selections (two) and three more Pro Bowl selections (four) than the league’s highest-paid safety, Harrison Smith, who recently signed a five-year, $51.25 million pact with the Vikings that includes nearly $29 million guaranteed.
Assuming Berry agreed to a richer deal than Smith’s, the cash-strapped Chiefs, who currently have a league-low $226,818 in cap space, according to the NFL Players Association, would still stand to create a minimum of $3 million or so in cap room this year with an extension. The team already has a significant amount of money committed to 2017 — upwards of $166 million, which already surpasses the 2016 cap number of $155 million.
The Chiefs also have the option of rescinding the tender on Berry, which would create $10.8 million in cap room. However, that would make one of their most popular — and more important — players an unrestricted free agent, which hardly seems like a reasonable option for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
Berry served as the emotional leader of a team that rallied from a 1-5 start and won 11 straight games last season. He recorded 61 tackles, 10 pass deflections and two interceptions and earned a host of honors, including his fourth Pro Bowl nod, his second all-pro nod and the NFL’s comeback player of the year award.
The honors still haven’t stopped rolling in, either, as Berry accepted the ESPY award Wednesday for Best Comeback Player.
Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt has said multiple times this offseason that the Chiefs will do whatever they can to retain Berry for the long-term.
“Well, I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to get a long-term deal with him done here in the next several months,” Hunt told The Star at the NFL’s annual meeting. “He’s certainly somebody that we would like to be a Chief for a very, very long time.”
But to make that happen, it appears, there’s some ground the two sides will have to make up fairly quickly.