Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Berry
Charles bruised his foot moving out of the dormitory last week when the Chiefs broke training camp at Missouri Western State University. He did not accompany the Chiefs to Charlotte for Sunday night's preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.
Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and safety Eric Berry were among the other players who won't practice. Bowe played against Carolina and caught five passes for 62 yards. He has what the Chiefs are calling a sore quad muscle.
Berry hasn't played in either preseason game because of what the Chiefs are calling tendinitis in his heel.
Other players who won't practice include wide receiver Junior Hemingway (hip) and linebackers Joe Mays (wrist) and Josh Martin (quad).
@adamteicher: They need to make a move at cornerback now. It was evident in offseason practice without Brandon Flowers that the Chiefs were lacking at the position. The other starter from last season, Sean Smith, is practicing but is subject to discipline from the league once his recent arrest for DUI is resolved in court. Marcus Cooper has been in the starting lineup in Flowers' absence, but it's difficult to see how the Chiefs can count on him after the way his play declined late last season. Some veteran cornerbacks available now include Chris Houston, Aaron Ross, Drayton Florence and Asante Samuel. Or the Chiefs could wait to see who else comes available.
@adamteicher: In their base defense it's Smith and Cooper at cornerback, and Eric Berry and Husain Abdullah at safety. It's not a bold prediction to venture it won't look that way when they begin the regular season on Sept. 7.
@adamteicher: Donnie Avery has been consistent as the No. 2 wide receiver, and it certainly doesn't look like the Chiefs are ready to give up on him. A.J. Jenkins has missed some practice time this spring because of injuries and hasn't mounted any kind of challenge to Avery. The Chiefs seem to like Junior Hemingway more as a slot receiver than a starter on the outside. At this point, Avery looks solid as a starter.
@adamteicher: Most of the work in practice goes to the starter, Alex Smith. Chase Daniel gets the second biggest workload, and sometimes Tyler Bray and Aaron Murray don't get many snaps. The backup quarterback situation is still to be played out, but there's nothing to indicate the Chiefs are ready to move on from Daniel as their main backup. Murray has done some nice things. But for raw ability, it's hard not to be impressed with Bray. He has a lot of talent. It's just a matter of whether he can put things together.
@adamteicher: I don't think Berry's role will change much from last season. He might get more time as the deep safety. He has been doing that some in practice, but he did it some last season, too. Berry is valuable to the Chiefs no matter what they ask him to do..
We'll continue here with the safeties.
End of 2013: Eric Berry, Kendrick Lewis, Quintin Demps, Husain Abdullah
Serious 2014 roster candidates: Berry, Abdullah, Sanders Commings, Jerron McMillian
Analysis: That the Chiefs passed on adding a safety through unrestricted free agency and the draft would indicate they're satisfied with either Commings or Abdullah starting along with Berry. Commings, a fifth-round draft pick last year, looked as if he was going to challenge for playing time last year before a broken collarbone suffered in training camp ruined his rookie season. Abdullah did a nice job for the Chiefs last season as a reserve, but he's been a backup most of his career for a reason. Whoever starts with Berry will play with a steadying influence and one of the NFL's best safeties. I listed McMillian as the fourth safety because he has a history with general manager John Dorsey when they were with the Green Bay Packers. But there's an opportunity for a younger player to claim a roster spot.
Better or worse? Worse. Too much uncertainty for my tastes. Lewis and Demps didn't play well, particularly toward the end of the season. But the Chiefs haven't improved just because they're gone.
The Chiefs surrendered a 38-10 third-quarter lead before eventually losing 45-44 to the Colts. And clearly they aren't over the way their 2013 season came to an end.
"This was my third time going to the playoffs and the other ones were different," linebacker Derrick Johnson said. The Chiefs were easily dismissed by Indianapolis and the Baltimore Ravens in Johnson's two previous playoff games.
"I watched the game right after (in previous years). I wanted to see every play. This game, not that I was bitter, but it was one of those games when you know you should have won. But it happened so you've got to go into the offseason and get your mind right.
"Now if I watch the film of the Colts game, I can dissect it a little better. My mindframe just wasn't right. I'm sure a lot of veteran guys that were in that game probably didn't watch it right after the game like you usually do."
Defensive end Mike DeVito, who played in, and lost, AFC championship games with the New York Jets before joining the Chiefs, said he feels much the same way as Johnson.
"I'm still not over it," DeVito said. "Of all the games I've played, two AFC championship games, losing in those AFC championship games, I don't know if I've ever hurt more than after that game. Then to have to sit on that for 3 1/2 months, it's not fun.
You do (normally) go back and look at it but that one, I'm with (Johnson) on that. It hurt so much."
Safety Eric Berry did watch video of the playoff game.
"A few times," he said. "It doesn't get any easier watching it."
It's too early to say if this is a potential problem for the Chiefs. Any team mentally tough enough to start a new season 9-0 after winning just two games the year before is probably resilient enough to shake off a playoff loss.
But difficult playoff defeats do tend to linger. They've brought down some seemingly strong programs before, including the Chiefs on more than one occasion.
It's a situation worth watching.
McShay’s comments about Berry at the time have played out since he joined the Chiefs. Berry is a three-time Pro Bowler, missing only after the 2011 season. He missed all but a handful of plays that season because of a torn ACL.
“Very high football IQ . . . Explodes out of backpedal and can eat up cushions in a flash . . . Relentless in pursuit [in run support], shows above-average range and always seems to be around the ball at the end of the play . . . Dangerous open-field runner.’’
The Chiefs passed on some others on McShay’s list in order to draft Berry: Tackle Russell Okung (17 on McShay’s list), cornerback Joe Haden (25), safety Earl Thomas (27) and wide receiver Dez Bryant (28). But it’s difficult to argue with the selection of Berry. He’s been a big playmaker for the Chiefs.
Fisher’s appearance on McShay’s list is a little bit of an upset given the relative weakness of last year’s draft. The Chiefs passed on others on McShay’s list in order to draft Fisher: tackle Luke Joeckel (20), defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (26) and cornerback Dee Milliner (29).
Fisher didn’t play like a prized prospect last season as a rookie. But he showed athletic skills uncommon for a player his size and once he gets stronger it’s reasonable to believe he will eventually become a solid player.
- Andy Reid is a former offensive lineman and former offensive line coach. He understands the importance of those positions. That's why it's intriguing the Chiefs are 31st among the NFL's 32 teams in salary-cap commitments for their linemen and last in cash spending. Perhaps it's part of the Chiefs' long-term planning not to sink a lot of money into their offensive linemen. It will be interesting to see not only what the Chiefs do in the draft with regard to selecting linemen, but how they handle contract situations with linemen who will soon become free agents. Center Rodney Hudson and guard/tackle Jeff Linkenbach are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in 2015. The contracts of guard Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson will be up the year following. The Chiefs can't continue to lose linemen at the rate of two or three a year without investing heavily in the position through the draft.
- A player who led the NFL in touchdowns, was third in rushing yardage and fifth among running backs in pass receptions is a steal at a much higher price. What the Chiefs are giving to Jamaal Charles is borderline criminal. Charles' salary-cap number of $5,233,333 is 10th among NFL running backs. The closest statistical comparables to Charles last season were Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy and Chicago's Matt Forte. McCoy rushed for more yards (1,607) than Charles (1,287) but had fewer pass catches (52) and total touchdowns than Charles (70, 19). Forte had more rushing yards (1,339) and pass receptions (74) than Charles but fewer total touchdowns (12). McCoy's cap number this year is $9.7 million. Forte's is $7.9 million. In terms of cash spending, or what their teams will pay this year alone, McCoy gets $8 million, Forte gets $6.9 million and Charles $3.9 million.
- The more I think about it, the stronger I feel that the Chiefs should hold on to Eric Berry. He's only 25 and won't be 26 until late December. So, in theory at least, his best years should be coming. As a strong safety, he plays a so-called non-premium position but he's still a playmaker who impacts the game.
- I recently broke down the Chiefs' salary-cap situation (offense here and defense and kicking specialists here). It showed them with regard to the NFL average to be heavy spenders at certain position groups (wide receiver, linebacker, defensive back, punter, kicker) and light spenders at others (offensive and defensive lines). These priorities seem generally well placed to me. Spend money on playmakers. I'm interested in hearing what you think about this. Are the Chiefs putting their cash in the right places? Tweet me (@adamteicher) with your thoughts.
But Berry shouldn't be one of them. Though as a strong safety he doesn't play a so-called premium position, Berry still finds a way to impact the game. He's a playmaker and the Chiefs need to do anything they can to hold on to this type of player. And another thing: Berry is just 25. He won't be 26 until late December, so his best years should be ahead of him. If the Chiefs trade Berry, they'll see him making plays for some other team for another six or eight seasons.
No, you don't dump players like Berry. You build around them. If the Chiefs need to find some salary-cap space next year, there will be other candidates. Dwayne Bowe immediately leaps to mind.
Berry is expensive now and he will be expensive to re-sign soon or at the end of his contract, which expires after two more seasons. But premium players come at a cost. That's the way this works. The Chiefs could always keep Berry around in 2016 as the franchise player if the sides can't agree on a deal for the longer term.
However it's done, the Chiefs need to keep Berry.
Salary-cap commitments: $6,649,267
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: 5.1
NFL average: $12,840,629
Chiefs rank on DE spending: 25th among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefs are spending only about half of the league average on these positions. For purposes of this discussion, Mike DeVito is labelled as an end because he’s basically a run defender who comes out of the game on passing downs. He makes up most of the Chiefs’ cap spending at this spot with a figure of $4.9 million.
Salary-cap commitments: $5,407,274
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: 4.2
NFL average: $8,979,256
Chiefs rank on DT spending: 22nd among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefs are again well below the league average here (about 40 percent below) and that’s counting not only Dontari Poe but Vance Walker as tackles. Poe is still playing under his rookie contract and has a cap number of $3,087,274. That’s only 27th highest among NFL defensive tackles.
Salary-cap commitments: $23,066,768
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: 17.8
NFL average: $15,526,469
Chiefs rank on LB spending: 5th among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefs spend more than 50 percent beyond the league average at linebacker, but they’re getting their money’s worth. Outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson on the inside are each working on a string of at least two consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. Hali alone accounts for about half ($11,464,706)of the Chiefs’ cap commitments at this position. Johnson ($4,550,000) and Houston ($1,598,812) are bargains.
Salary-cap commitments: $19,886,878
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: 15.4
NFL average: $12,150,127
Chiefs rank on CB spending: 3rd among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefs spend about 67 percent more for their cornerbacks than the NFL average. One starter, Brandon Flowers, has the third-highest salary-cap number for an NFL cornerback ($10,500,000) while the other, Sean Smith, is 16th ($5,750,000). No other Chiefs cornerback has a cap figure above $1 million.
Salary-cap commitments: $13,319,700
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: 10.3
NFL average: $8,333,907
Chiefs rank on safety spending: 6th among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefs spend about 67 percent more than the league average at this position, mainly because of Eric Berry and his cap number of $11,619,700. Berry was drafted fifth overall in 2010, the last year before the NFL overhauled rookie contracts, so he’s benefitting from the huge deal he signed then. Berry has the highest salary-cap number for a safety and the only one over $10.1 million.
Salary-cap commitments: $2,708,750
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: 2.1
NFL average: $1,864,515
Chiefs rank on kicker spending: 8th among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefs have about 47 percent more committed to Ryan Succop than the average NFL team does to its kicker.
Salary-cap commitments: $3,800,000
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: 2.9
NFL average: $1,706,906
Chiefs rank on punter spending: 2nd among 32 teams
Analysis: Here’s another sign the Chiefs value their kicking specialists more than some other teams. Re-signing Dustin Colquitt to a new contract was a priority for general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid when they were hired last year. His cap number is more than twice that of the average NFL punter.
Salary-cap commitments: $595,000
Percent of Chiefs’ total cap: .5
NFL average: $838,863
Chiefs rank on LS spending: 23rd among 32 teams
Analysis: The Chiefssigned Thomas Gafford to his second straight one-year contract worth the NFL minimum.
But let's take a look at how much the Chiefs would save (or not save) by cutting some of the players who are costing them the most against the salary cap.
Releasing Bowe isn't an option for the Chiefs because in that case he would actually cost them more ($16.25 million) than if he plays for them. About half of Bowe's 2014 salary of $8.75 million is guaranteed, meaning the Chiefs have to pay that portion of it whether he plays for them or not. So cross that one off your wish list. Bowe will play for the Chiefs in 2014.
The next three highest cap numbers belong to defensive players: strong safety Eric Berry (approximately $11.6 million), linebacker Tamba Hali ($11.5 million) and cornerback Brandon Flowers ($10.5 million).
Nobody has suggested the Chiefs release Berry, who has plenty of long-term value to the Chiefs. But for the sake of argument, the Chiefs would save about $5.8 million against the cap if they did release him.
The Chiefs would realize a cap savings of about $5.5 million if they released Hali and about $3.5 million if they cut Flowers. But Hali is still a productive player and there's nowhere the Chiefs could reasonably go to find another player who can give them what Hali did last season. Flowers had a down season, but it would be a mistake for the Chiefs to give up on a player in the prime of his career. Flowers turns 28 on Tuesday.
Cornerback Sean Smith is another popular choice for release among Chiefs fans. His cap cost is $5.75 million. But his base salary of $3.45 million is fully guaranteed, so like Bowe, would cost Kansas City more if he didn't play for them than if he did.
-- Linebacker Derrick Johnson was the game's defensive MVP with eight tackles and a forced fumble. He also had a big hit on his Chiefs teammate, running back Jamaal Charles, in the first quarter.
-- Quarterback Alex Smith was just 9-of-22 for 116 yards, but he threw the winning touchdown pass, a 20-yarder to Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.
-- Charles rushed five times for 43 yards and caught a pass for four yards.
-- Dexter McCluster returned five punts for an 11-yard average, including a 26-yard return.
-- Safety Eric Berry and nose tackle Dontari Poe each had an interception. Berry also had four tackles.
-- Linebacker Tamba Hali and cornerback Brandon Flowers each had a pair of tackles.
-- Linebacker Justin Houston registered no stats. Neither did offensive tackle Branden Albert, but he had a good time nonetheless in his first Pro Bowl game. Albert tweeted afterward, "Hawaii.... I'll see you next year."
On defense, the grades for defensive linemen Dontari Poe, Tyson Jackson and Allen Bailey, linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, and safety Eric Berry were all significantly up from 2012.
A few players had their grades drop. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and offensive tackle Branden Albert were among them, but neither player had a huge drop.
One player did have a huge drop; cornerback Brandon Flowers. He will participate in the Pro Bowl on Sunday in Hawaii, more of an honor for what he did in previous seasons than how he played in 2013.
Flowers had some dismal games in 2013, none worse than the torching he received against Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys early in the season, and then by the San Diego Chargers halfway through. In fairness to Flowers, he missed a couple of games early in the season because of a sore knee, and it might not have been right the rest of the way.
Still, it's a fact that Flowers didn't play very well, and it's to the point it's natural to wonder about his future with the Chiefs. He's a 5-foot-9, 187-pound player on a team that now prefers bigger cornerbacks. It's more than a little telling that the Chiefs used Flowers to cover the slot receiver in their nickel defense as the season went on.
Flowers has a big contract (he counts $10.5 million against the Chiefs' 2014 salary cap) and he might not be the best fit for a team that requires it's cornerbacks to play so much one-on-one coverage.
It might be a mistake for the Chiefs to give up on Flowers, who turns 28 next month. Flowers has played well in seasons past, and though he's a little guy, but doesn't usually play like one. He's not afraid to stick his nose into the running game.
But in a division with big receivers like Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Keenan Allen, Rod Streater and Andre Holmes, it's a fair question: Is Flowers right for the Chiefs?
It will be interesting to see in the coming months what general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid think.