Dec 28, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs fans show their support for safety Eric Berry (29) (not pictured) during the second half against the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 19-7. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
First off, it adds extra gravitas to the secondary instantly. Berry has been a star since he came into the league from Tennessee in 2010. Making the pro bowl his rookie year, as well as in 2012 and 2013. That is every single season he has played without injury (he was also sidelined for a season in 2011 due to a torn ACL). That is impressive by any standards, and the reason why he has the fourth largest contract on the team according to Spotrac.com (was the third until the Houston signing).
Before he was sidelined by his diagnosis last season, Berry was on course to continue his streak of production, accruing two passes defended, 32 tackles, and five assists over six games played. And even if Berry came back something short of 100%, he would still be valuable to the team.
If he was not immediately in Pro Bowl form, he would still cause opposing passers to think harder about throwing to his side of the field. At least more than the players currently on the roster would. When you look at the depth chart for the defense, safety sticks out as a position that could use some improvement.
Yes, officially, there is no depth chart right now. If you go to KCChiefs.com, and click on “Depth Chart,” you will be taken to a page that tells you to wait until training camp. However, we know who is on the roster, and where most players are likely to end up. And the Chiefs depth chart on ESPN has an interesting curiosity.
Ron Parker holds the starting position at free safety, as would be expected. After all, Kansas City was willing to to give him a five-year, $25 million contract this offseason. Making him the seventh largest contract on the team. However, over at strong safety, Berry’s position, the projected starter is Sean Smith. Yet Smith is not a safety, but a cornerback. In fact, Smith is also listed as starting at corner as well.
I am not sure how ESPN expects Smith to start two positions at once, but it does tell you something about their assessment of the other players in the secondary. As noted above, free safety is not much of an issue with the resigning of Parker. And he is backed up by Husain Abdullah, who started all sixteen games last year and gave a decent performance, if nothing to write home about.
The problem is that, assuming Smith remains at his normal position of cornerback (which makes sense as the only other corners on the roster are Marcus Peter, Phillip Gaines, and Jamell Fleming), then strong safety duties would fall to Tyvon Branch.
Theoretically, that should be no big deal. Part of the reason Branch was signed in the first place was to fill Berry’s spot. However, I have never been so certain that he would be up for the task. That skepticism seems to be shared by Oakland, who had no problem letting him walk after spending seven seasons with the team, and Kansas City, who gave him only a one-year, $2.1 million contract.
Next: Bringing it all together