Former Saint becomes part of defensive overhaul

Updated: July 1, 2005, 3:20 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Unrestricted free agent Ashley Ambrose, a 13-year veteran who ranks among the leading active players in interceptions, has signed a one-year contract with the cornerback-needy Kansas City Chiefs.

Complete financial details were not available Friday, but it is believed that Ambrose will earn a $765,000 base salary, the NFL minimum for a player of his tenure.

Ashley Ambrose
Ambrose

The addition of Ambrose, one of four veteran free-agent cornerbacks who auditioned for Chiefs coaches and personnel officials last week, bolsters one of Kansas City's biggest areas of concern. Released by New Orleans early in the offseason, Ambrose drew solid interest recently from at least two other teams. He becomes the fifth defensive veteran acquired by the Chiefs this offseason who could be in the team's season-opening starting lineup.

The Chiefs added standout cornerback Patrick Surtain of Miami in an April trade, but starter Eric Warfield faces league sanctions -- most likely a suspension that could keep him off the field for the first month of the season -- for three DUI convictions. Chiefs coaches were preparing Julian Battle as Warfield's likely replacement, but the two-year veteran suffered a season-ending Achilles' injury during a recent mini-camp.

Team officials have acknowledged they retain some interest in free agent Ty Law, the former Patriots cornerback and four-time Pro Bowl performer, but his contract demands might put him out of the Chiefs' price range. And Law, released by the Patriots, is still not fully rehabilitated from foot surgery that limited him to just seven appearances in 2004.

Securing the savvy Ambrose, a Saint the last two seasons, provides the Chiefs a solid insurance policy. It is expected that, if Warfield is suspended, Ambrose will challenge veteran Dexter McCleon for a starting spot to open the season. The Chiefs have indicated they prefer to keep McCleon at the nickel cornerback spot, if possible.

Ambrose, 34, has been a dependable, and at times outstanding, cover defender over much of his long career. In 192 games, including 141 starts, he has 550 tackles, 42 interceptions, 163 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and six recoveries. He has at least two interceptions in each of the last two seasons and has returned four for touchdowns.

In 1996, when he was selected to the Pro Bowl while playing with the Bengals, he had a career-best eight interceptions. Even last season, when injuries limited Ambrose to only nine games, he posted three interceptions.

Ambrose entered the NFL in 1992 out of Mississippi Valley State as a second-round pick of the Colts. His résumé includes stints in Indianapolis (1992-95), Cincinnati (1996-98), New Orleans (1999 and 2003-04) and Atlanta (2000-02), and he's known for his veteran leadership skills, class and maturity.

The Chiefs also announced Friday they have signed seventh-round offensive tackle Jeremy Parquet of Southern Mississippi to a two-year contract. Parquet, who started in 39 of his 44 college appearances, is the first of Kansas City's nine draft picks to come to terms on a deal.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.