Ten-year veteran strong safety Sammy Knight, a one-time Pro Bowl performer who ranks third in interceptions among active players, was released by the Kansas City Chiefs on Wednesday, ESPN.com has learned.
The release came after the sides could not agree on a reworked contract.
Knight, 31, becomes an unrestricted free agent and figures to draw considerable interest from other teams, even in a market where more than two dozen safeties remain unsigned. One of the league's top ballhawks in his prime, Knight probably has lost a step over the past couple of seasons, but he remained productive in 2006.
In 16 games last season, all starts, Knight posted 83 tackles, two sacks, one interception and three passes defended.
Knight's departure takes away experience and leadership at safety but allows Kansas City to move younger players, like second-year veterans Bernard Pollard and Jarrad Page, up the depth chart at the position. Pollard, A second-round draft choice in 2006 and a physical defender who performed well as a situational player in his rookie year, is expected to take over as the starter.
Knight was scheduled to have a base salary of $2 million in 2007, but the sides could not come to an accommodation that met their mutual needs. His base salaries for subsequent seasons were $1.75 million for 2008 and $1.5 million in 2009.
In 10 seasons, Knight has 939 tackles, 38 interceptions, 43 passes defended, nine sacks, 12 forced fumbles and 13 fumble recoveries. He has appeared in 158 games.
Originally signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent in 1997, the former Southern California standout began his career as a special teams player, but he quickly emerged as one of the NFL's premier playmakers at safety.
With an uncanny knack for authoring the timely takeaway, Knight has registered five or more interceptions in five different seasons. He has four interception returns for touchdowns.
The Chiefs also released offensive tackle Kyle Turley on Wednesday, and he will consider retirement. Turley returned to the NFL in 2006 after missing the previous two seasons, but he appeared in only seven games.
Turley, 31, started in all but one of 96 games with New Orleans (1998-2002) and St. Louis (2003) at the outset of his career, but he then was sidelined for two years by back problems.