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Kampman an intriguing UFA option if healthy

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Dan Arkush

darkush@pfwmedia.com
Executive editor

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Posted Feb. 22, 2010 @ 12:32 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

Updated March 7, 2010 @ 12:40 p.m. ET

This is the fifth in a series of scouting reports on 15 key players who are slated to become free agents — restricted or unrestricted — March 5, unless they are re-signed or franchised before then.

News: Make no mistake. When it comes to the potential impact makers available in this year's UFA market, Green Bay's Aaron Kampman is considered a proven commodity. Proof was provided when the Jaguars, in dire need of a quality pass rusher off the edge, signed him with midnight approaching on the second full day of this year's free-agent period. At an awards ceremony early in the offseason in Chicago, Bears DE Alex Brown aggressively lobbied for the 30-year-old Kampman — who had 37 sacks in three seasons as a 4-3 end prior to switching to left outside linebacker in Green Bay's new defense under Dom Capers this past season — to fill the Bears' major need for a quality pass rusher which the team hopes was filled with the signing of Julius Peppers. That said, there are two key questions that need to be answered about Kampman: (1) How close is he to being fully recovered from the torn ACL that ended his 2009 season Nov. 22 and required knee surgery Dec. 4; and (2) How hungry is he to test the market with an eye toward returning to a 4-3 defense as an end after just starting to really get his act together in Capers' 3-4 scheme when he went down for the count in Week 11?

By all accounts, Kampman is well ahead of schedule in his recovery from surgery. After a slow start last season in a new role, Kampman improved each week, and when he started putting his hand down on some passing downs, his production increased. The consensus in Green Bay seems to be, however, that the Packers will allow him to test the market before considering any plans to re-sign him. "I think it will work itself out in the next couple of months," Kampman told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in early January when asked what could be store in his future. "I had a good time getting the chance to learn the 3-4. It was disappointing I didn't get a chance to finish the season. It would have been fun to compare apples to apples in a 16-game season and kind of see where I would finish up. So we'll see. I really don't have anything to say. It will kind of play itself out."

Notes: Despite seeing action in only nine games in '09 at a new position, Kampman still managed to finish the season as the sixth-leading tackler in one of the league's best defenses. Prior to last season, his 37 sacks from 2006-08 were the third most in the league in that time span behind Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware and Vikings DE Jared Allen. A contract extension in '06 sparked a breakout campaign that season, when Kampman finished second in the league with 15½ sacks and set a franchise record for tackles by a defensive linemen with 113.

Positives: A true technician and consummate professional, Kampman is as hard of a worker as there is on the field and a quality individual off of it. The intangibles he offers are considerable, and the odds are strong that, if he were to indeed make a move this offseason, he would be an instant team leader in his new surroundings. True to form, Kampman never stopped grinding in an unfamiliar role last season and was starting to make his presence felt. As an end, he had risen to the top of the ranks thanks mostly to his maximum effort and competitiveness, as well as his excellent leverage.

Negatives: Kampman says he is ahead of schedule in his recovery from surgery, but at the age of 30, free-agent shoppers can be expected to scrutinize his left knee thoroughly. Extremely durable for a prolonged stretch at defensive end, it's conceivable his body could be starting to break down a bit. Otherwise, Kampman is a player with very few weaknesses.

Risk factor: It seems like Kampman would be worth the gamble for the Jaguars, especially when you take into account his high character and tremendous work ethic.

 

Tuesday: Raiders DE Richard Seymour

 

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