Middle Man

Rumors began swirling early this morning that the Chiefs were working diligently to sign free agent linebacker Napoleon Harris. After he visited Tampa Bay on Saturday the Chiefs brought Harris in on Sunday and would not let him leave until he had a contract in hand.



That contract got signed, and based on numbers reported by the Pioneer Press, Harris will receive $13 million over the first three years of a six-year contract that includes a $7.5 million signing bonus. The total package is worth as much as $24 million.

That's cheap compared to the contract Kendrell Bell signed three years ago. This time the Chiefs didn't overpay for a player that has been spectacular at times and struggled on occasion throughout his five-year NFL career.

His career got off to a good start in Oakland before a disappointing third season. That led to his departure from Oakland as he was shipped to Minnesota in the Randy Moss trade. At the time he was considered a key part of the deal.

He struggled in his first season with the Vikings but last season the lights came on and he became the all-around linebacker Minnesota felt he'd be when they made the trade.

That led him to free agency. As soon as free agency started, the Chiefs wanted Harris to visit Kansas City, but he gave his old head coach, Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden, the first crack at signing him. He left the Buccaneers without a contract.

That didn't happen in Kansas City, where Harris and the Chiefs felt they were a perfect fit.

Harris arrives after amassing some solid numbers over the course of five years. He has 333 career tackles, six sacks, three interceptions, nine passes defensed and four forced fumbles. He also has 74 games under his belt, and that experience above anything else is something the middle of the Chiefs new defense needs.

Harris will replace last year's starter, Kawika Mitchell, who was simply too slow to play the style of defense Herm Edwards wants to play in Kansas City.

Mitchell has been shut out in free agency as he waits for the second tier of players to pick up the scraps. He was a solid player, but Harris is better in almost every way. Mitchell is more self-made. Harris's problem has been motivation and focus.

Edwards and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham should take care of the latter. They'll have Harris ready to play the first time he steps on the field.

At 28 years of age he has plenty of game left. With a career that has seen some downs, it's probably time in his mind and the Chiefs that he experiences some ups.

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