I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the Tyrann Mathieu contract, and how it affects the Chiefs’ Eric Berry situation. I have a few thoughts on it.
1. For those who missed it, Mathieu signed a five-year, $62 million contract with $40 million guaranteed. The key number is the guaranteed money, which is $13 million more than the previous highest-paid safety (Minnesota’s Harrison Smith) got. Mathieu has basically set the top of the safety market in a significant way. Now...
2. If I was Berry, I could make every argument in the world that I should receive a deal at least equal or slightly greater than that. Mathieu is much younger — 24 compared to Berry’s 28 — but by the measures that matter, Berry has a stronger track record. More Pro Bowls ( four compared to one) and more AP all-pro teams (two compared to one).
3. That said, if I were him — and I took a deal less than what Mathieu eventually ended up getting — I’d be upset. Period. I don’t think the Chiefs were offering anything close to what Mathieu received, so that said, I think Berry and his agent, Chad Speck, probably made the right move rejecting whatever was offered.
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4. So what now? Well, Berry can make a pretty penny this season by playing on the franchise tag ($10.8 million), but he wants — and deserves — one last big deal. Given the fact the two sides couldn’t make it happen this year, I really don’t know if they’ll be able to get something done next year, either. If I’m Berry, I do what I have to do to get one last big deal. If that means asking for a trade, fine. If that means testing free agency next March and letting the market dictate my worth, fine.
5. I know fans don’t want to hear that. But football players really sacrifice a lot to play the game (namely, their long-term health) and they only have a short amount of time to earn as much as they can. I really wish fans took the side of the players more in this situation, but I get it. The loyalty is to the jersey, not to the name on the back of it.
6. By the way, if the Chiefs’ front office doesn’t want to pay Berry what he’s worth, I understand that. It’s their choice. They’re the ones charged with bringing a Super Bowl here, and it’s their butts that will be on the line if they fail. You can make some compelling arguments for why they shouldn’t pay a 28-year-old safety, especially when you consider this regime’s track record for finding useful safeties off the scrap heap. But just know this — you’re going to lose something significant in the locker room if he leaves, and I don’t know if it’s easily replaceable.
7. Finally, one more thing. Some people are of the opinion that Berry should give the Chiefs a “hometown discount” for standing by him through the cancer ordeal. Honestly, the Chiefs didn’t have much choice in the matter. Had they cut his salary because he was stricken with lymphoma — LYMPHOMA — people around the league (media, agents, players, etc.) would have eviscerated them both publicly and privately for it. So while the club handled it well, and they deserve some credit for that, anything short of what they did would not be very becoming for the first-class organization Clark Hunt prides himself on running.
So in short, guys, please don’t begrudge Berry for doing what he has to do to get the money (which essentially equals respect to players) that he deserves. Football is a business. It’s a great game, and we all love it, but it is what it is.