Chiefs’ Overhaul on Defense Continues with Eric Berry’s Release
Last season the Kansas City Chiefs fielded the NFL’s most potent offense that was led by sensational second-year quarterback Pat Mahomes, who broke out in a big way in his sophomore season. He led the league in passing touchdowns with 50, finished second in passing yards with 5,097 and was unanimously voted as the Most Valuable Player. As the league becomes more and more pass happy every year, young offensive coaches are in high demand and the rules are catering more and more towards promoting record-breaking scoring numbers, the defense has begun to take a back burner in the eyes of certain franchises. They are have begun to place more of an onus on doing whatever it takes to put up the most points week in and week out. While the Chiefs’ offense was among the league’s most prolific, their defense was one of the most porous. Since their high-flying counterparts on the other side of the ball were scoring points at such an immense rate, opposing teams were often forced to try to match them. Despite having a productive pass rush, their secondary ranked among the league’s worst. This prompted them to move on from five-time Pro Bowl and three-time All-Pro safety Eric Berry last week after nearly a decade as one of the team’s and league’s best defenders. After overcoming Hodgkin’s lymphoma to continue his playing career, Berry has only appeared in just four games, including the playoffs, for the team in the last two seasons. He tore his Achilles tendon in the 2017 season opener against the New England Patriots and has been dealing with the lingering effects of the injury ever since. However, he isn’t the only Pro Bowl defender from that defense that has been jettisoned out of town. The team is moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme on defense under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and which calls for defensive ends to rush the passer from the edge instead of outside linebackers. As a result, the organization released four-time Pro Bowler and sack specialist Justin Houston prior to the start of the new league year. They also traded last year’s sack leader Dee Ford, who made his first Pro Bowl last year after recording a career-high 13 sacks, to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2020 draft. The departure of all this premium talent has only been countered with the signing of Pro Bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu to a three-year deal worth $42 million that now makes him the highest paid player at his position in the league at just over $14 million per season. He is viewed as one of the most versatile defensive backs that can play safety, corner, and nickel as well as blitz and play the run. He may play in a Swiss army knife role for Spagnuolo in his defense as a "do it all DB", he is but one piece and can only play one of the 11 positions on that unit on any given play. They have seven picks in this year’s draft, one in each round, and with contracts of many of their offensive stars on the horizon, including the eventual record-breaking deal that they will have to shell out to Mahomes when his rookie deal is up, they most likely make any more splash moves in free agency. This draft class is expected to be loaded with quality defensive talent throughout and they will need to draft wisely to replenish and retool their depleted ranks on that side of the ball.