As a casualty of the Tyrann Mathieu signing, longtime Chiefs safety Eric Berry has been released by the team after a nine-year run in Kansas City that included five Pro Bowls, three first-team All-Pro selections, and one Comeback Player of the Year award.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Chiefs cut Berry before $7.25 million of his 2019 salary became fully guaranteed on Friday. According to Yahoo’s Terez A. Paylor, the Chiefs will save $15 million against the salary cap over the next two years by releasing him with a post-June 1 designation.

Berry, 30, immediately becomes the best safety available on the market.  

“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, 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.”

Chiefs general manager Brett Veach called it “an incredibly difficult decision.” Chiefs coach Andy Reid described Berry as “a special person” and said that “seeing his passion and watching his love for the game has been truly remarkable.” 

Berry, the fifth-overall pick out of Tennessee in 2010, has been one of the league’s best safeties when he’s been healthy enough to play. But he’s missed 55 of 144 possible games during his career. He’s certainly proven his ability to bounce back, though.

In December 2014, Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He beat the cancer by the summer and didn’t miss a single game the following season, racking up 55 solo tackles, 10 passes defended, and two interceptions in a remarkable comeback. 

After the 2016 season, the Chiefs made Berry the game’s highest-paid safety with a six-year, $78 million deal. Since signing that contract, Berry has played in three regular-season games. At the beginning of the 2017 season, Berry ruptured his Achilles. This past season, Berry battled heel and Achilles injuries.

During the legal tampering period, the Chiefs agreed to sign Mathieu away from the Texans, giving him a three-year, $42 million deal as they attempt to fix their defense, which cost them a spot in last season’s Super Bowl. While Mathieu and Berry certainly could’ve played alongside each other, the Chiefs would’ve been paying a ton of money at one position group when they have other problems that need solutions — especially in the aftermath of their decisions to release Justin Houston and trade Dee Ford, their two best edge rushers. Berry’s injury issues the past two years and his age likely also factored into what was probably a difficult decision. 

The Chiefs shouldn’t be done making moves. They can’t just change defensive coordinators, sign Mathieu, get rid of Berry, Houston, and Ford, and expect their defense to drastically improve after allowing 26.3 points per game this past season. 

As for Berry, he should have suitors. Safeties have been getting paid in free agency — with Earl Thomas to the Ravens serving as the most recent example — and Berry is suddenly the best safety available in the market. 

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