The Kansas City Chiefs are proving they are serious when it comes to fixing its leaky defense.
Showing an aggressive streak in free agency unseen in previous seasons, the Chiefs plugged a big defensive hole Monday with the signing of unrestricted free-agent linebacker Shawn Barber to a seven-year, $30 million contract that comes with a $5.5 million signing bonus.
Barber, who played last season with the Philadelphia Eagles after a four-year stint with the Redskins, is projected to be Kansas City's starting weak-side linebacker, moving recently signed Mike Maslowski to the middle.
"I think we made it quite clear from the onset that this was a priority for us," Chiefs president and general manager Carl Peterson said. "(Shawn) does fit what we're looking for in the 'Will' linebacker position.
"I think the obvious is he has the great skills. But besides that, he also has the experience we're looking for and that's going to fit this position very well for us."
Barber, 28, was a fourth-round selection in the 1998 draft by the Redskins out of the University of Richmond. He came to Kansas City this weekend as the first stop on his journey for a new home. But he never left as the Chiefs made an offer he simply couldn't refuse.
"We were excited about having the No. 1 team on my list being the No. 1 team that called," Barber said. "It wasn't surprising to me that I wasn't going to leave once I got here."
Barber brings an infusion of speed lacking in the linebacker corps since the departure of Donnie Edwards. The 6-foot-3, 237-pounder started all 16 games with the Eagles and was the team's second-leading tackler with 119. He also had two interceptions, three fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and five quarterback pressures.
"I'm very athletic," Barber said. "There are certain guys who bat the ball down and break up passes, but I'm not a pass break-up guy. I'm an interception guy and touchdown-maker, fumble-creator, whatever you want to call it. A ball-hawk. I go after the ball."
Barber appears ready for the challenge of helping transform the 32nd-ranked defense in the NFL last season.
"It's a big challenge, but that's what I thrive on," Barber said. "Going into last year in Philadelphia it was a great defense that lost some key players. I was going into an already working system. That was a challenge. But when I look at this division, it's got some great offenses. But they've already got a good corps of guys already here.
"We need one or two more difference-makers to really turn things around and get this defense headed in the right direction."
Barber will go from player to recruiter tomorrow when former Philadelphia teammate and prized free-agent defensive end Hugh Douglas visits with the Chiefs. Douglas was in Seattle today discussing his prospects with Mike Holmgren and the Seahawks.
Barber's message for Douglas?
"Get on board," Barber said. "Get on board as fast as possible. Only one team's going to win the Super Bowl and you might want to get on board as soon as possible.
"We'll sit down and talk about things. I think of myself as being one of the leaders on this defense and having a say, but not on who plays. But Hugh would be a great addition. Everyone knows he brings a tenacity, an attitude, and those things help win championships."
Peterson said there may be still room under the salary cap to make a deal with Douglas.
"We possibly will but until I sit down with his representatives and find out how much it is, I don't know that number yet," Peterson said. "But he wanted to visit us and we wanted to visit with him, so we're going forward with that as well as a couple of other defensive people."