Former Vols safety Eric Berry was given the franchise tag by the Kansas City Chiefs this off-season, ensuring that the team would retain the rights to the 2015 first-team All-Pro selection at a salary of $10.8 million for the upcoming season.
But that still won’t be enough to get Berry into training camp when the Chiefs begin working out on Friday.
According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Berry was not yet signed that franchise tag tender and is technically under contract at this point in time. That will allow Berry to skip on training camp and the preseason without being subject to fines by the team, while still being eligible to earn the full amount of his $10.8 million contract when he decides to sign it.
Not having signed his franchise tender, Chiefs' Eric Berry is expected to miss most, if not all, of preseason. Expected back before opener.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 28, 2016
Since there was no longer-term contract signed with the franchise that drafted him No. 5 overall in 2010, that franchise tag money is guaranteed without penalty. And since the deadline to sign a franchise tagged player to a long-term contract passed on July 15 without Berry and the Chiefs reaching a deal, Kansas City has little leverage to bring him back into the fold on anything but his own timetable.
“Whatever way you cut it, Eric Berry is a great football player, and good things are going to happen to him here,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan. “I know how he’s wired. He loves to play the game. That’s how it is.
“It’s a weird dynamic that you’re juggling with finances and playing and all those things. I’ve seen it before. Guys normally come in, and they just go. When it’s time to play, they play. They put the business side aside, and they get after it.”
According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, the risk of Berry not showing up for training camp is that the Chiefs could rescind the franchise tag offer. But doing so would make him a free agent and enable him to sign a long-term contract with the team of his choosing.
Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014, but diligently worked his way to being cancer-free and returned to the football field as NFL comeback player of the year in 2015.
The two-time All-American safety for the Vols is widely considered one of the best safeties in the NFL, earning four Pro Bowl selections in six professional seasons.