DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs released four-time Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles on Tuesday, clearing more than $6 million in salary cap space that they used to sign safety Eric Berry and offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif to long-term extensions.
Even though the move made business sense, it was still somewhat bittersweet.
Charles ran for 7,260 yards and 43 touchdowns in nine seasons with the Chiefs, and will finish as the franchise’s career rushing leader. But a career that looked as if it would land Charles in the Hall of Fame has been derailed the past few years by injuries that have cut short seasons in his prime.
He tore his left ACL while taking an awkward step out of bounds in Detroit in 2011. He tore his right ACL against Chicago four years later. And after missing the start of last season, Charles returned to play in only three games, carrying 12 times for 40 yards, before requiring more operations on his knees.
The uncertainty about his future made it impossible for the Chiefs to swallow his salary.
“I have a great deal of admiration for Jamaal Charles, his toughness and what he’s been able to achieve in his time in Kansas City,” general manager John Dorsey said in a statement. “These decisions are never easy, but we felt it was in the best interests of the club to move on at this time.
“We wish Jamaal and his family the best of luck in their next step.”
While the Chiefs could try to sign him to a cheaper, incentive-laden contract, a person familiar with Charles’ thinking said there is “no chance” he plays in Kansas City next year. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss such details.
Charles hopes to sign somewhere where he can compete for a starting job.
“I’ve been privileged to work with a lot of talented players over the years and Jamaal Charles ranks up there with the great ones,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I appreciate the way he came to work every day. He gave us everything he had day in and day out.”
Charles was selected in the third round of the 2008 draft out of Texas, but spent his first season in the league as a role player. By his second season, he had moved into the starting lineup, and responded by putting together the first of his five 1,000-yard seasons.
He was voted an All-Pro in 2010, making his first trip to the Pro Bowl. He ran for a career-best 1,509 yards two years later, and was voted All-Pro again the following year, when he ran for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns in what might go down as the finest season of his career.
Over time, he became one of the most popular players on the Chiefs: No. 25 jerseys were easy to spot at Arrowhead Stadium, and some fans wore faux dreadlocks in a nod to the pride of Port Arthur, Texas.
His legacy was such that Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt issued a statement thanking him for his time in Kansas City, a rarity for the most visible member of the team’s ownership family.
“Jamaal has been one of the most prolific players in our organization’s history,” Hunt said, “and I have an enormous amount of respect for what he has accomplished. He’ll always be a part of the Chiefs family and we’ll be ready to honor him for his outstanding playing career when the time is right.”
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