KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs said goodbye to some familiar faces this week in order to rebuild the team’s defense.
The Chiefs released linebacker Justin Houston on Sunday as well as safety Eric Berry on Wednesday in the beginning of a rebuild of one of the NFL’s worst defenses. General manager Brett Veach explained in a press conference Thursday how parting ways with certain players was a difficult decision.
“Change is inevitable and it’s always hard to move on from players who have been here,” Veach said. “I think it certainly makes it more difficult when change involves long-standing members of the community and the locker room — certainly talking about Eric Berry and Justin Houston.”
Houston was due $15.25 million this season and carried a salary cap hit of $21.1 million. The decision to release Houston freed up about $14 million, allowing the Chiefs to actively pursue former Houston Texans safety Tyrann Mathieu while still giving them enough salary cap space to address other areas of their defense.
The release of Berry was with a post-June 1 designation, according to reports, which means the Chiefs will save more than $9 million on the cap this year.
“As everyone knows, these guys were outstanding players. All the accomplishments on the field will certainly never be forgotten,” Veach said.
Berry played in 89 games over nine seasons with the Chiefs. Following the 2015 season, he was honored with the AP’s Comeback Player of the Year Award after overcoming Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The five-time Pro Bowl safety was voted the team’s most valuable player in 2015 and 2016.
Houston had been with the Chiefs since 2011. The four-time Pro Bowl linebacker was named first-team All-Pro in 2014, the same season he led the NFL in sacks.
“It’s certainly very difficult, but again, change is a part of this process,” Veach said “Also, I want to wish the best of luck to Stevie Nelson, Mitch Morse, Demetrius Harris, all those guys.”
The Chiefs traded Dee Ford to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2020 second-round selection. Veach said he is excited for Ford and his family.
“John Lynch got a great player. I feel like after the trade went through, both teams were in good positions moving forward,” Veach said.