Player contract time is arriving for the Chiefs. What makes this offseason different is the number of star players whose deals are likely to be extended or re-worked in an effort to maintain the foundation of a team that was one game away from playing in the Super Bowl.
The future of players like outside linebackers Dee Ford and Justin Houston, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and defensive lineman Chris Jones was the primary topic for Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, who spoke to reporters on Thursday for the first time since the end of the season.
Ford, whose 13 sacks were a career best, appears to be a franchise-tag candidate.
“We’re excited about bring him back,” Veach said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Franchising Ford would cost the Chiefs about $16 million in 2019 — such an arrangement would mean they’d pay him a one-year contract worth an average of the top five salaries for players at his position — and Ford said after the season he’d welcome the designation.
Houston, who carries a $21.1 million cap hit for 2019, could be asked to restructure his current deal, but those discussions have not yet occurred.
“Justin has been a great player, done a ton of things for us over the years,” Veach said. “There will be a time and place, but we haven’t had that type of discussion yet. There will be time to work through some of these questions.”
For two players who just completed the third seasons of their respective four-year rookie contacts, Hill and Jones, now is the time to talk extension.
Hill made the Pro Bowl for the third straight season and set a franchise record for receiving yards in a season with 1,479. Jones set an NFL record with a sack in 11 straight games, and recorded 15 1/2 for the season.
“We want them here for a long time,” Veach said. “We have a special thing brewing here . … We’ll have discussions on how we can make this work for everyone.”
Even the future of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who won the NFL MVP award in his first year as a starter, has been a topic, although he’s only two years into his rookie contract.
“Last year we were putting this together, and this is pre-50-touchdowns and 5,000 (passing) yards,” Veach said. “We were preparing to have success and (considered) the potential of a future number.”
There is also the matter of safety Eric Berry, who carries a $16.5 million cap hit for 2019. Berry has played in just four games over the past two seasons because of injuries, and although he played all 97 snaps of the AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots, his health remains an issue.
Veach said Berry recently returned from seeing a specialist in Green Bay. But the GM didn’t say whether the former All-Pro will undergo surgery.
After rupturing his Achilles in the 2017 season opener, Berry traveled to Green Bay to visit Dr. Bob Anderson, who had operated on former Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson’s Achilles. Johnson ruptured his Achilles twice, in 2014 and 2016.
One player the Chiefs aren’t currently considering returning to the roster is running back Kareem Hunt. He was dismissed from the team November after a video surfaced showing him shoving and kicking a women in a Cleveland hotel in February.
Veach said the team has been in contact with Hunt since then, but not to discuss his football future.
“Him playing for the Chiefs is on the back burner,” Veach said. “When we’ve reached out it’s solely about making sure his life is on track right now.”
Veach also addressed the recent viral video showing Mahomes playing basketball. You can read that story here.