The Chiefs are looking for a free safety this offseason, and for some, that might come as a surprise. Especially because the search has nothing to do with the late-season struggles of starter Kendrick Lewis.

Instead, it has to do with the presence of Eric Berry, a fourth-year pro who will participate in his third Pro Bowl at 6:30 tonight.

Given the hype around Berry, who was drafted fifth overall in 2010 out of Tennessee, he would seem to be a natural choice to fill Lewis’ role if he doesn’t return to the Chiefs.

Berry is coming off a strong 2013 season in which he spent most of his time as a linebacker on passing downs and finished with a Pro Football Focus grade of 14.5, which ranks fourth among all safeties. But there is some doubt as to whether he fits the bill as the Chiefs’ version of Seattle’s Earl Thomas, whose sideline-to-sideline speed and ball skills make him an irreplaceable piece for the NFC champion Seahawks, one the Chiefs perhaps missed most this season.

“I think (Berry) is best utilized in the box,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “He and Earl Thomas were the same year coming out of college, and they’re very different … Thomas has got better range on the back end, but Berry is a better tackler.”

ESPN analyst Louis Riddick agrees, but he remembers when Berry, who suffered a left ACL injury in 2011, was believed to possess elite feet, someone who played a little cornerback in college and could cover receivers with uncommon ease for a safety.

“He’s kind of gotten away from some of that,” Riddick said. “Sometimes, if you don’t use those skills, you wind up training differently. To me, it looks like he’s gotten thicker, more muscled up, and he’s tighter than he used to be then.”

Berry, who was listed at 6 feet and 203 pounds his final year in college, is now listed at 6 feet and 211 pounds.

“When he was in college, I thought his movement patterns were much more fluid,” Riddick said. “He didn’t appear quite as big and he just didn’t appear quite as tight through his core. And you need all that. You need fluid hips, you need explosive short-area quickness to really be a great cover guy like he used to be.”

But while Mayock’s and Riddick’s critiques of Berry might seem harsh at first blush, it’s actually more like nitpicking. Though he struggled at times in coverage and against the run in the Chiefs’ 45-44 playoff loss to Indianapolis, both analysts consider Berry one of the best safeties in the league, someone any team would like to have.

“That doesn’t mean he’s a bad player, because he’s not,” Riddick said. “He’s a good player. It’s just not of the caliber, I don’t think, that it was when he first came out. Which was, I mean … he was a bad man when it came to being able to cover and hit. Some of that has changed now. That’s all.”

In fact, Riddick even called Berry a “very good” 3-4 scheme safety and compared him to a future Hall of Famer who was used in a similar capacity.

“He is a young Troy Polamalu-type, a guy who can play linebacker, play down in the box, play tight ends,” Riddick said. “I mean, he’s perfect for that.”

Mayock agrees, and thinks the Chiefs would be better served using him in the same manner next season.