If you watched the 2004 playoffs it should be easy to recall the outstanding linebacker play by the three of the four contenders who advance to the NFL's ‘Final Four.' The Patriots, Steelers, and Eagles dominance at linebacker was the primary reason each team made it to Championship Sunday. In the regular season and in the playoffs, these teams won football games through the power of their linebacking corps. In comparison, those games made the inadequacies of the Kansas City Chiefs linebackers painfully obvious that the Chiefs still have to bridge the gap to being compared with the elite defensive teams in the NFL.
The goal now for the Chiefs is to bring back memories of vicious Kansas City linebackers in the not so distant past. It also appears to have caught the eye of Chiefs player personnel brass Bill Kuharich, VP of Pro Personnel and Lynn Stiles, VP Football Operations/Player Personnel.
Fortunately Kuharich and Stiles did take notice, they urged management to acquire free agent Kendrell Bell, despite his history of injuries. The move is a fantastic start to strengthening one of the weakest positions on the Chiefs defense. Bell will get the Chiefs closer to respectability at the linebacker spot because of his monstrous playmaking ability. In my eyes, he's more than capable of producing the kind of plays we've seen in recent years from the Patriots Teddi Bruschi and the Eagles Jeremiah Trotter; who by the way almost became a member of the Chiefs in the early stages of free agency.
Unfortunately Kansas City is still only half way to rounding out their linebacking corps. When you factor in the unavailability of Shawn Barber, who is still recovering from a very serious knee injury that required two surgeries; he could be out until October. The poor play of the Chiefs linebackers the last two years can be attributed to injuries and talent. With Bell in the middle and the likelihood the Chiefs will re-sign Scott Fujita; there is no denying that Kansas City still has a gaping hole to fill at outside linebacker.
Common sense would scream that the Chiefs look to the upcoming draft for a potential fix for their linebacking woes. Or they could even roll the dice and hope one of their players can improve from within to improve the shaky defense. The problem with that is that linebackers in this years draft are fairly weak and we already know what taking the gamble on improving from within looks like. (Do we really have to remind everyone about the teams failures in signing there own players a year ago? YES!)
But the Chiefs still have options. Even after they signed Bell they continued to pursue Ed Hartwell who eventually signed with the Atlanta Falcons. That means this defense could be better served in my opinion by acquiring another proven talent when it comes to netting an NFL playmaker. This wouldn't be the case if the Chiefs had done there job two years ago and retained the services of Donnie Edwards who bolted to the Chargers. Still Kansas City can correct that mistake; no they won't be making a trade with their AFC West rival but instead can find a tackling machine sitting in Houston by the name of Jamie Sharper.
In eight NFL seasons, the first four with Baltimore and the last three with the Texans, Jamie Sharper has been quietly brutalizing offenses. He played an integral part in the Ravens 2000 Super Bowl defense that defeated the New York Giants. He was one-third of the best linebacking corps in recent history. Though he has not received the same accolades as his former teammates Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware, he is very deserving and more than held his home with the duo.
After Sharper corralled 108 tackles in 2001; he was acquired by the Houston Texans in the expansion draft. Sharper quickly became the heart and soul of Dom Capers 3-4 defense. His first year with the Texans the former Raven registered 95 solo tackles with 40 assists but that was nothing compared to his 2003 season when blew things wide open with 164 tackles. But he was far from done impressing people; in 2004 when the Texans had more talent on the defensive side of the ball, he led them with 137 tackles. He was one of the true leaders of the defense and the opponents had to account for Sharper on every play.
Shortly after the season ended the Houston Texans decided to go with a youth movement and are currently shopping the veteran linebacker for a second day draft pick. Sharper, who will turn 31 in November, was scheduled to make $6.13 million this season and that's a figure thee Texans can't live with as they prepare for the upcoming NFL draft. The Texans have taken those salary numbers and factored in his age and they feel his best days are behind him and are willing to part ways with him provided they can find a team willing to trade for him and sign him to a long term contract.
As of Saturday, the news out of Houston is indicating that the Texans have informed other teams that they are only seeking a mere 4th round pick in return for Sharper's services. Which ever team does make that trade will have to negotiate a new contract with him immediately but Jamie won't be missing out on a huge payday. Rather than his $6.13 million dollar salary he would simply see it in a $6 million dollar signing bonus on a five year cap friendly deal that could make the Chiefs a player for his services.
If the Chiefs want to make a legitimate run for the Super Bowl, they'll need a couple of defensive players to finish their off-season shopping to go along with Bell and Safety Sammy Knight. The Chiefs should undoubtedly be the first in line for Sharper, especially now that teams know they were still players in the Hartwell sweepstakes after signing Bell to a long term contract. Sharper would give the Chiefs a sideline-to-sideline linebacker who still has the power to handle the contact and make plays at the point of attack or in the offensive backfield. Not many players have that ability or skill level. If Sharper were playing next to Kendrell Bell the Chiefs might have their best linebacking duo since Thomas and Edwards or maybe even Lanier and Bell.
Though Sharper's name has been bandied around Arrowhead Stadium; nobody seems to be talking about him. Now that could mean they have no interest or they're playing coy about their true interest. Let's hope is the latter. The Chiefs need another playmaking linebacker and by signing Sharper this year, that would allow Keyaron Fox and Kawika Mitchell more time to develop into every down players.
So if the KC Star's Jason Whitlock can call for Ty Law to join the Chiefs, then I suppose I can call for Jamie Sharper. Though I don't have his clout or appetite for food, nonetheless; I'm on the bandwagon to let everyone know how crucial it is to bring the veteran linebacker to Kansas City.
The bonus for the Chiefs is Sharper is free of a walking boot, he's never missed a game in his eight year career and he wants to play for a contender. With that said, he would be the safest, surest, most logical signing the Chiefs could make at this point to carry on the linebacker imnage.
This column appears courtesy of Chiefs Coalition.com.