Filling their need for more athleticism and playmaking potential at middle linebacker, the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday reached agreement with unrestricted free agent Napoleon Harris on a six-year deal.
Complete financial details of the contract were not immediately available, but two league sources told ESPN.com that Harris will receive about $6 million-$7 million in guarantees.
Harris, 28, will replace Kawika Mitchell as Kansas City's starting middle linebacker. A solid run-stuffer but limited athlete, Mitchell is also an unrestricted free agent. He was not expected to return to the Chiefs and the acquisition of Harris all but guarantees that.
A five-year veteran, Harris has drawn interest from several teams since the start of free agency and visited earlier with Tampa Bay Buccaneers officials. But the Chiefs made him a priority, in part because head coach Herm Edwards believes Harris has the skills to fit well into his Cover 2 scheme, and moved quickly to complete a deal with him.
Because of his movement skills, Harris should be a middle linebacker capable of remaining on the field on third down, even in obvious passing situations.
Oddly, the Minnesota Vikings, who also play the Cover 2 scheme and for whom Harris played the past two seasons, made little effort to retain him, even though he was a productive player for them.
Minnesota signed E.J. Henderson to a long-term contract extension toward the end of last season, and will benefit from the return of 2006 first-round choice Chad Greenway, who missed his entire rookie campaign with a knee injury. So the Vikings, who also have a standout veteran on hand in Ben Leber, apparently felt they could allow Harris to move on to another team.
The Vikings acquired Harris as part of the 2005 trade that sent wide receiver Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders. Harris, a college standout at Northwestern, played three seasons for the Raiders, who chose him in the first round of the 2002 draft, before the trade.
In five seasons, Harris has 333 tackles, six sacks, three interceptions, nine passes defensed and four forced fumbles. He has appeared in 74 games and been a starter at the middle and weakside linebacker positions.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.