After nearly a week of nothing but talk, the Chiefs finally managed to sign a free agent when linebacker Kendrell Bell inked a seven-year deal earlier today.
The signing of Bell, the 2001 Defensive Rookie of the Year and a 2002 Pro Bowl selection with the Steelers, gives the Chiefs an immediate upgrade at the linebacker position. His signing also comes as a huge relief to the Chiefs, who lost out on cornerback Samari Rolle, safety Dwight Smith and linebacker Jeremiah Trotter who all signed elsewhere after visiting Kansas City last week.
When healthy, Bell is a complete linebacker – capable of both stuffing the run, and getting to the quarterback. The problem is, he wasn’t able to stay healthy during his four seasons in Pittsburgh. Bell appeared in just three games last year because of a groin injury and missed four games in 2002 with a high ankle sprain. Those injuries led to the Steelers decision not to resign him.
But after missing out on Rolle, Smith and Trotter, Kansas City was willing to take that chance.
Bell will immediately step into the starting middle linebacker spot for the Chiefs, moving last year’s starter Kawika Mitchell to a back-up and special teams role. The play of the Chiefs middle linebackers has been suspect at best since the injury to Mike Maslowski during the 2003 season. Flanking Bell on either side will most likely be Scott Fujita and Monty Beisel (at least until Shawn Barber recovers from his knee injury), two players who have shown improvement over the past two years, but who would probably be back-ups on just about any other team in the league.
So while the signing of Bell should help improve the Chiefs defense, more work, and more additions are definitely needed.
The Chiefs are reportedly still in negotiations with linebacker Edgerton Hartwell, and have expressed an interest in cornerbacks Fred Smoot, Ty Law and Patrick Surtain, though Hartwell is the only one to have visited Kansas City so far.
Let’s hope the Chiefs front office isn’t done opening their wallet yet, and that they will find a way to sign some more defensive help.