Kansas City, Mo. (ap) — Eric Berry sat behind a small table in the Chiefs training complex, flanked by his parents, and made the kind of admission that probably made general manager John Dorsey wonder.
“Someone could have offered me more money somewhere else, and they could have offered me less here, and it wouldn’t have balanced out,” Berry said. “You can’t put a price on chemistry.”
Well, the Chiefs were forced to put a price on it anyway.
The team that drafted Berry in the first round seven years ago signed him to a $78 million, six-year deal to make him the NFL’s highest-paid safety. It’s a deal that was more than a year in the making after the sides failed to reach an agreement and Berry spent last season playing under the franchise tag. It’s also one that should stabilize the Kansas City defense for the foreseeable future.
But speaking for the first time since signing the deal, Berry said the financial aspects were only part of the equation. There was also a comfort level that came with continuing his career in Kansas City.
“I know what I’m going to get every time I walk in the building,” he explained. “I know everyone in the building. I know the people in the cafeteria. I know what desserts we’re going to have, that we’re going to have wings every Thursday. If there’s something we don’t like in the cafeteria, we can talk about it and get it done. It’s not like that everywhere. Why risk having to rebuild that somewhere else?”
Which raises the question: Could Dorsey and the Chiefs have squeezed him for a few more bucks?
There is no telling what the market would have been had the Chiefs failed to reach a deal, but there is also no disputing the fact Berry would have had plenty of suitors when free agency begins this week.
This is a guy who overcame a torn Achilles tendon to become one of the game’s best safeties, then dealt with even more serious adversity when he was diagnosed with cancer in December 2014.
Berry was back on the field for training camp the next season, and had such a solid year the Chiefs wanted to sign him to a long-term deal then. But the sides never truly got close to an agreement, and after he missed most of the offseason, Berry wound up making about $10.8 million on a one-year deal.
He said all along he wouldn’t sign the franchise tag again this season, so that put more pressure on the Chiefs to reach an agreement.
“I’ve got everything I want. The stuff that I want doesn’t have a dollar value to it,” said Berry, who was voted an All-Pro for the third time last season. “It’s just living the life I want to live.”
Not only provide for himself but also James and Carol, his parents, who not only inspired him to become one of the NFL’s best players, but helped him deal with his cancer treatments.
“When he called to say that the deal was done,” Carol said, “I cried.”
Tears of joy, of course, because James and Carol knew their son wanted to play in Kansas City.
“From the beginning, he always talked about being in one place for his career,” James said. “So this actually happened for him, and I can see he’s happy and satisfied and I’m good with it.”
For the record, Dorsey is good with it, too.
Sure, the GM might have saved some money by playing hardball all the way to free agency, or by allowing Berry to hit the market. Then again, maybe one of the Chiefs’ top defensive players could have gotten a better offer elsewhere, one that was worth sacrificing the relationships he built in Kansas City.
Dorsey never wanted to find that out.
Neither did Berry, for that matter.
“I was talking to my parents and my uncle and everything, and nobody accounts for chemistry,” he said. “You can try to put a price tag on different things, but a lot of people don’t account for that — don’t take that into consideration. And that was a big thing.”