Chiefs release All-Pro safety Berry

The Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs began free agency Wednesday by cutting one of their most popular players in strong safety Eric Berry, who was a dynamic presence when he was healthy but had missed significant time throughout his career.

While other teams were touting new additions, the Chiefs announced Berry’s release shortly after the start of the new league year. He would have been guaranteed $7.5 million of salary on Friday.

“We continually evaluate every aspect of our football team and we came to the decision that it was in our best interest to release Eric,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said. “Knowing what Eric has meant to this organization and this city made this an incredibly difficult decision.”

A three-time All-Pro, Berry was the Chiefs’ first-round pick in the 2010 draft, and he quickly became a star, earning the first of five Pro Bowl invitations as a rookie. But he also missed most of the 2011 season with torn knee ligaments, most of the 2017 season with a torn Achilles’ tendon, and nearly all of last season, when a mysterious heel injury kept him off the field for all but two games.

Berry also missed 10 games during the 2014 season when he was diagnosed with cancer, but he became a motivation to many when he concluded treatment and was back on the field the following summer.

“On behalf of my family and the entire Chiefs organization, I want to thank Eric for his many contributions to the Chiefs over the last nine seasons,” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said in a statement.

“Eric has been a tremendous leader for our football team and an inspiration to so many fans over the years,” Hunt said, “and we sincerely appreciate all that he has meant to the Chiefs. He will always be an important part of our Chiefs family, and we wish him nothing but the best in the future.”

The Chiefs agreed to a $42 million, three-year deal with former Texans safety Tyrann Mathieu before the start of free agency, and it turned out to be a signal that Berry’s time in Kansas City was over.

His release comes with a post-June 1 designation, meaning the Chiefs take on $6.5 million in dead money this season and $8 million next season. It also marks the end of an era following the release of linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali last season, and linebacker Justin Houston this season.

The four were pillars for Kansas City during its renaissance under coach Andy Reid.

“I’d like to thank Eric for his contributions to our team and the Kansas City community over the last nine years,” Reid said. “Seeing his passion and watching his love for the game has been truly remarkable. He’s a special person, and we wish him the best as his career moves forward.”

Among other moves Wednesday:

• The San Francisco 49ers agreed to a trade to acquire Kansas City franchise pass rusher Dee Ford and are signing free agent running back Tevin Coleman.

A person familiar with the moves confirmed them Wednesday; the person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deals have not been announced.

The person said the 49ers will send a 2020 second-round pick to the Chiefs for Ford and give him a new contract. ESPN reported the deal will be worth $87.5 million over five years.

Coleman will sign a two-year deal that ESPN reported will be worth $10 million.

• A person with knowledge of the move said the Washington Redskins agreed to terms on an $8 million, two-year deal with running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson, who turns 34 next week, rushed for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns in 16 games with Washington.

• The New Orleans Saints agreed to terms with free-agent running back Latavius Murray on a four-year contract. Murray, who played for the last two seasons with the Vikings, ran for 578 yards with six touchdowns in 16 games, including six starts, in 2018. His 26 rushing touchdowns since 2016 rank fourth in the NFL. The 29-year-old was a Pro Bowl pick with the Raiders in 2015, when he ran for 1,066 yards and caught 41 passes for 232 yards. It was his only 1,000-yard season.