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Albert, McCluster first two to leave via free agency

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It’s not a surprise, but the reality of the Chiefs parting ways with key contributors from last season’s 11-5 playoff team has officially arrived.

The first two to officially sign with other teams within minutes of Tuesday’s start of the new calendar year are left tackle Branden Albert and wide receiver/punt returner Dexter McCluster.

Albert, who made the Pro Bowl last season, signed a five-year contract at more than $9 million per season, Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports NFL reports:

The chatter of Albert to the Dolphins picked up steam in the past 24 hours and his name was involved in trade talk with the Dolphins last offseason prior to the draft.

Albert joined the Chiefs in 2008 as the 15th pick overall of the NFL Draft. He appeared in 85 games with 83 starts at left tackle.

His departure means the Chiefs need to figure out what to do with last season’s No. 1 pick overall, Eric Fisher, and Donald Stephenson at the tackle positions.

The earliest hint of what the Chiefs are thinking at left tackle will arrive in organized team activities. Stephenson, who enters his third season, started seven regular season games in 2013, four at left tackle and three on the right side. The Chiefs drafted Fisher as Albert’s heir-apparent.

Meanwhile, McCluster agreed to terms with the Tennessee Titans, Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports:

He recorded 686 punt return yards in 2013 to lead the NFL and the yardage ranks as the most in a single season in franchise history.

In addition to being named to the Pro Bowl last season, McCluster was recognized by The Associated Press as a second-team All-Pro. The NFL recognized McCluster as the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month in December of 2013.

McCluster closes out his four-year run in Kansas City with 172 catches for 1,500 and five touchdowns. He added 662 yards rushing and a touchdown on 152 attempts.

As a returner with the Chiefs, McCluster recorded 79 punt returns for 959 yards and three touchdowns during his career. He also had 52 kickoff returns for 1,087 yards.