ORLANDO, Fla. -- Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was especially proud of a versatile Kansas City defense this season, which overcame several injuries and an extremely competitive division to earn a first-round bye.
The unit finished seventh in points allowed, first in turnovers and first in interceptions.
Sutton pointed to some contributors "off the street" but was clear about one thing: Safety Eric Berry was the heart of the team, and he would love the now five-time Pro Bowler to return next season.
"Oh yeah, definitely yeah. That's out of my wheelhouse but I mean, you'd be crazy not to (want him back)," Sutton told me this week. "I thought he had an MVP-type season. He was a dynamic force. Physically, taking the ball away. his coverage. I don't know how much more you could do. This guy had an impact on our entire team. Not just our defense, but our entire team. That's a trait that is hard to put a value on. You can't quantify it but you know it's there."
Berry played this season under a $10.8 million franchise tag. Because he and the Chiefs could not work out a long-term deal, he did not report to camp until Aug. 28. The team could tag him again, but it would make Berry the highest-paid safety in the NFL at roughly $13 million and nearly impossible to sign after that.
Berry said recently that he and his agent had already spoken with the Chiefs, but warned that it was "early."Chiefshead coach Andy Reid also professed a desire to have Berry back for the 2017 season (who wouldn't?).
This is normally the way this offseason song and dance gets going. The head coach says they want the player back and the player says he'd like to return too. The coaches and front office are hoping that Berry can help them with what seems to be a tight salary-cap situation. Berry is hoping the Chiefs will pay him like the franchise player he is.
Listening to Sutton, though, it's hard not to imagine them coming to some sort of agreement. As he noted, Berry's play continues to transcend simple X's and O's and has a far-reaching impact on the defense and locker room. Berry took over games this year on his own, picking off four passes, breaking up nine more and forcing a fumble. He tied a career-high with two touchdowns.
A large part of the offseason is about debating which players are worth the money. This doesn't seem like much of a debate.