Chiefs to sign former Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens

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The Kansas City Chiefs paying huge money for Sammy Watkins likely led to one response from some fans: But what about the struggling defense?

We have a response: Anthony Hitchens.

The Chiefs plan to sign the former Dallas Cowboys linebacker to a five-year, $45 million deal, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday morning, according to sources informed of the move. The deal includes $21.29 million fully guranateed. He was ranked No. 50 in NFL.com's Top 101 Free Agents of 2018.

Hitchens, a fourth-round pick in 2014, compiled 304 tackles and 3.5 sacks in four seasons in Dallas. The linebacker owns the flexibility to play both inside and outside and filled in capably at middle linebacker when Sean Lee was injured.

Hitchens had been heavily linked to the Indianapolis Colts, where his former linebacker coach, Matt Eberflus, is now the defensive coordinator. Instead, the Chiefs swooped in.

At just 25-year-old with speed to run sideline-to-sideline, Hitchens fits the profile of a Chiefs defense looking to get younger and quicker. K.C. has shed aging veteran players in its front seven this offseason, parting ways with long-time Chiefs linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali.

Hitchens immediately upgrades the Kansas City run defense, which ranked 25th in the NFL in 2017, allowing 118.1 yards per game. He also provides solid range in coverage, not allowing a touchdown on 37 targets, per Pro Football Focus.

K.C. still owns needs on each level of its defense, but adding Hitchens is the first offseason salvo in the overhaul for the back-to-back AFC West champs.

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