Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali cashed in on a career year in 2010 by reaching a five-year, $60 million deal that includes $35 million in guarantees, a source told ESPN.com senior NFL writer John Clayton on Wednesday.
According to the source, Hali is planning to be at Chiefs training camp on Thursday afternoon.
Hali had been designated as the Chiefs' franchise player after a breakthrough season in which he led the AFC with 14.5 sacks. He had been playing on a five-year deal worth $3.3 million, but his new contract puts him in the same echelon as Cowboys pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware, who has a six-year, $78 million deal.
The Kansas City coaching staff and front office never seemed too concerned that Hali had not agreed to a new contract as the first week of training camp came to a close. When asked Monday whether he was happy with his pass-rush, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel replied: "No! Tamba's not here yet!"
Crennel went on to say, "Soon as Tamba gets here, my pass-rush will improve."
That's about to happen.
Hali will be joined by a number of free agent veterans who have been unable to fully participate in practice before Thursday because of rules set out in the new collective-bargaining agreement.
Among the new faces that he'll join are former Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Steve Breaston, ex-San Diego Chargers linebacker Brandon Siler, and former All-Pro fullback Le'Ron McClain, who agreed to a one-year deal earlier Wednesday.
Wallace Gilberry could also get on the field Thursday. The defensive end was a restricted free agent who recently signed his contract after finishing second on the team with seven sacks a year ago.
The 27-year-old Hali was chosen by the Chiefs with the 20th overall pick in the 2006 draft after a stellar career at Penn State. He immediately moved into the starting lineup at defensive end in the 4-3 alignment used by the previous coaching staff, and had eight sacks during his rookie season.
With a new regime came a switch to a 3-4 defense, and Hali seamlessly transitioned to outside linebacker. He had 8.5 sacks two years ago before a breakout season in which his 14.5 sacks was just one behind Ware for the most in the NFL. Hali also made 51 total tackles, forced four fumbles and recovered two for a defense that struggled to create turnovers last season.
The performance resulted in his first Pro Bowl invitation, which he declined citing personal reasons, and now a massive new contract that could keep him in Kansas City through the 2015-16 season.
Hali has become a fan favorite as much for his engaging backstory as his ability to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. He left Liberia at the age of 10, became a standout for Joe Paterno at Penn State, and catapulted up the draft boards to become a first-round selection.
He became a permanent U.S. citizen soon after he was drafted by the Chiefs.
Hali's impending arrival at training camp leaves only cornerback Brandon Carr and linebacker Justin Houston unsigned. Carr has been a starter the past three seasons and is an unrestricted free agent; Houston was the team's third-round draft pick and is being counted on to help bolster the pass rush.
Crennel said he believes Houston will eventually sign, but he also warned that the former Georgia defensive end will have a much more difficult time getting up to speed than Hali.
The NFL lockout prevented rookie minicamps and other organized team activities, leaving first-year players struggling to learn playbooks and pick up the nuances of professional football.
"It's going to hurt him a little more because he doesn't even know the system. Tamba knows the system," Crennel said. "Justin is a rookie. He just has to feel his way. So the time he misses will hurt him."
Information from ESPN.com senior NFL writer John Clayton and The Associated Press contributed to this report.