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Saturday, March 1, 2008 - Page updated at 08:06 AM

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Bills to Sign Linebacker Mitchell

AP Sports Writer

Linebacker Kawika Mitchell reached an agreement with the Buffalo Bills on Friday, cashing in on the first day of NFL free agency after playing on a Super Bowl winner with the New York Giants.

The five-year veteran started all 16 games for the Giants last season after being the team's only notable free-agent addition a year ago. He finished with 87 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks and an interception, which he returned for a touchdown against the Bills.

He also had a fumble return for a TD and added two sacks in four playoff games, including one in the Giants' Super Bowl win over New England.

The Bills confirmed that a verbal agreement had been reached, but provided no further details.

Mitchell bolsters a young and injury-depleted linebacker corps in Buffalo. He's expected to round out a starting unit of returning veteran Angelo Crowell and second-round draft pick Paul Posluszny, who missed the final 13 games of his rookie season after breaking his forearm.

Selected in the second round of the 2003 draft by Kansas City, Mitchell became a full-time starter midway through his rookie season. He spent four years with the Chiefs before signing a one-year deal with the Giants.

Mitchell is coming off his best season, and benefited from opponents double-teaming the Giants star defensive ends. He did show resilience, bouncing back from a sprained knee sustained in New York's season-finale against New England, to play at Tampa Bay in New York's NFC Wild-Card playoff-opener the following week.

The Bills, coming off their second straight 7-9 finish, turned their attention to defense this offseason after their unit finished 31st in the league in yards allowed, 30th in sacks and 29th in both first-downs allowed and third-down efficiency last season.

Last year, Buffalo concentrated on improving its offense, signing guard Derrick Dockery and tackle Langston Walker to contracts worth a combined $74 million on the first day of free agency.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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