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Free agency radar: Replacing Jeff Heath with Eric Berry?

Photo: Michael Lark/Dallas Sports Fanatic

Free agency radar: Replacing Jeff Heath with Eric Berry?

Former Chiefs safety Eric Berry intends to play in 2020 after he sat out the entire 2019 campaign following his release from Kansas City last offseason, per a report from Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network.

The former three-time Kansas City All-Pro didn’t play last season, but it wasn’t due to a lack of interest from teams around the league. Garafolo noted that he did have chances to play last year, but elected to take a leave of absence.

The 31-year-old wanted to take the time off to physically and mentally get himself in better condition, Garafolo reported, to have a more impactful career going forward.

The former fifth overall pick by the Chiefs in the 2010 NFL Draft was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and was placed on the non-football injury list in 2014. He was declared cancer-free about nine months later and was able to play in all 16 regular-season games in 2015, which earned him NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors.

Following that season, Berry signed a one-year, $10.80 million franchise tag to remain with the Chiefs for the 2016 season after both parties were unable to come to an agreement on a long-term contract.

He was named First-team All-Pro after he recorded 77 tackles and four interceptions.

He was also ranked 13th by his peers on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2017 as the highest-ranked defensive back.

In February of 2017, the Chiefs signed Berry to a six-year, $78 million contract that includes $40 million guaranteed and a $20 million signing bonus, making him the highest-paid safety in the NFL.

He remained the starting strong safety to start the regular season. He started the Kansas City Chiefs season-opener at the New England Patriots and recorded seven combined tackles, before leaving their 42–27 victory on Thursday Night Football in the fourth quarter after sustaining an apparent Achilles injury.

The following day, the Chiefs announced he had ruptured his Achilles and that he would miss the rest of the season. He finished his season with seven combined tackles (four solos) in one game and one start.

On September 9, 2017, the Kansas City Chiefs officially placed him on injured reserve and he underwent surgery three days later. With only one appearance, he earned an overall grade of 73.6 from Pro Football Focus.

While recovering from the torn Achilles, he had been dealing with a sore heel, which was later diagnosed as a Haglund’s deformity, which is a bone spur that digs into the Achilles causing extreme pain.

He missed the first 13 games of the 2018 season before making his season debut in Week 15. He played in two regular-season games and one playoff game the Chiefs 37-31 loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game

On March 13, 2019, Eric Berry was released by the Chiefs.

The Dallas Cowboys spoke with Berry at the beginning of this past season where he underwent a team physical. Dallas decided not to sign Berry to a deal in favor of veteran safety George Ioka – who was released from the team before the start of the regular season.

Jeff Heath, the team’s starting strong safety last year, is set to hit the free-agent market this offseason. Heath compiled 63 tackles and seven pass deflections in 13 games.

He was bothered by lingering shoulder injuries throughout the year, which helped earn fourth-year safety Darian Thompson playing time. Thompson is also set to be a free agent.

Dallas drafted safety Donavon Wilson in the sixth round of the 2019 draft.

Berry could give Dallas a veteran presence in the secondary and a player who can take the ball away. He has 14 career interceptions and three seasons of at least two picks.

Staff Writer covering the Dallas Cowboys | Madden Legend | SFA Alum | Fascinated by Success

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