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AFC sacks leader Hali receives franchise tag from Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Chiefs placed the franchise tag on linebacker Tamba Hali, who went to the Pro Bowl this past season as the AFC's leading sacker.

In an announcement Wednesday on their official website, the Chiefs said they still hope to reach a long-term agreement with the outside linebacker, who was a first-round draft pick in 2006.

As a non-exclusive franchise player, Hali is guaranteed a one-year contract equal to the average salary of last season's five highest-paid players at his position -- approximately $10 million -- if he stays with Kansas City. Hali can negotiate with other teams, but the Chiefs would receive two first-round draft picks from any team that signed him.

After he was drafted out of Penn State in 2006, Hali was put at defensive end opposite Jared Allen. But Hali proved undersized at 265 pounds and was moved to outside linebacker in 2009. There, he blossomed. His pass-rushing abilities helped the Chiefs make a franchise-record six-win improvement to 10-6 in 2010 and claim their first AFC West title since 2003.

In addition to his 14.5 sacks, Hali had 52 tackles, 19 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles this past season.

"Tamba is a key contributor to our football team, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for him both personally and professionally," Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli said in a statement released by the team. "We want Tamba to remain a member of the Chiefs, and we will continue to work together with the hope of reaching a long-term agreement."

An affable, outgoing man, Hali is one of the Chiefs' most popular players. He is a native of Liberia and lived in constant danger in the war-torn country as a youngster before moving to New Jersey with his father.

In 2006, after much study, Hali was excused from Chiefs training camp to fly back to New Jersey and be sworn in as a citizen of the United States. And after a period of bureaucratic wrangling, he was finally able to move his mother to the United States.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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