ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Former All-Pro fullback Le’Ron McClain has agreed to a one-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, according to a person with knowledge of the deal, giving the defending AFC West champs a short-yardage option to go with a talented group of speedy running backs.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Wednesday because the team had not announced the deal. The Chiefs generally do not release such information until a player has signed a contract.
McClain could take some of the load off Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, a pair of smaller, shifty running backs who each logged more than 200 carries last season. Charles made his first Pro Bowl after gaining 1,467 yards on the ground and 468 through the air, while Jones ran for 896 yards in his first season in Kansas City.
Jones appeared to lose a step late in the year, though, and he turns 33 later this month. Coach Todd Haley would like to spread the ball around to keep both of them fresh, and McClain gives the team another option along with the versatile Dexter McCluster, who saw time at running back and receiver last season.
“There’s some interesting things to think about, you know, some of the skill position guys we have between Jamaal’s ability to catch the ball, Dexter’s versatility,” Haley said earlier Wednesday.
The 260-pound McClain is coming off a mercurial four-year run with the Baltimore Ravens, who selected him in the fourth round of the 2007 draft out of Alabama.
He carried only eight times his rookie season before running for 902 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008, when he was voted first-team All-Pro by The Associated Press. McClain made his second straight Pro Bowl the following season, even though his production dipped significantly, and last year managed 85 yards rushing as his role shifted to primarily that of a blocking back for breakout star Ray Rice.
McClain decided to become a free agent this year and the Ravens looked elsewhere for help, signing All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach to an $11 million, three-year deal last weekend.
The Chiefs and general manager Scott Pioli have been selective with their free-agent signings during the early frenzy of training camp, quietly and effectively upgrading several positions of need.
They gave quarterback Matt Cassel another target by signing former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Steve Breaston, plugged a hole in the middle of the defensive line with former Baltimore Ravens tackle Kelly Gregg, and are hopeful Brandon Siler can join Derrick Johnson to form a formidable pair of run-stopping inside linebackers.
Kansas City also added some depth to its training camp roster, signing a pair of rookie free agent cornerbacks in Javes Lewis, out of Oregon, and Mario Russell, out of Carson-Newman.