The Florida Times-Union reported late Saturday evening that the Jaguars agreed to terms on a contract with unrestricted free agent Aaron Kampman, a key defender for the Packers the past eight seasons. Terms of the deal were undisclosed. Kampman, who moved to left outside linebacker last year in Green Bay’s new 3-4 defense, will return to defensive end, the position at which he had previously excelled for the Packers.
The Jaguars must hope the 30-year-old Kampman does not develop complications with the ACL in his left knee, which required surgery after he tore it nine games into the 2009 season. By all accounts, Kampman, who also reportedly received interest on the free-agent market from the Seahawks and Eagles, is well ahead of schedule in his recovery from surgery.
In his final season with the Packers, Kampman, who never truly warmed up to his position switch according to daily team observers, registered 42 tackles and 3½ sacks. The previous three years, he totaled 37 sacks as one of the league’s most accomplished pass-rushing defensive ends. The Jaguars’ No. 1 need entering the offseason was widely considered to be a quality pass rusher off the edge
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Give GM Gene Smith and the Jaguars credit. For the second year in a row, they proved that they are willing to address their biggest needs in free agency if the right opportunity presents itself. Last year's signings of WR Torry Holt, OT Tra Thomas and SS Sean Considine, while only short-term solutions, made the team better immediately by providing veteran leadership and depth for a young team in need of exactly that.
A franchise-low and league-worst 14 sacks last season were by far the team's most glaring deficiency. The Jaguars never had a chance in games against the Patriots and Colts because they never got close enough to breathe on Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Obviously, you're not going to beat some of the game's all-time great QBs when you allow them to sit in the pocket all day surveying the field with nothing to worry about.
There is no question that by signing Kampman, the Jags are rolling the dice. A 30-year-old (he turns 31 in late November) coming off major knee surgery, no one really knows if Kampman will possess the same explosiveness off the edge he had prior to tearing his ACL. But what we do know is the Jaguars need to start filling Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in order to secure a long-term future in one of the league's smallest markets, and in order to do so they need to show the fans that they are serious about winning now.
If Kampman can return to form as one of the NFL's premier pass rushers, the Jaguars' defense will be a much better unit. Kampman provides the team with a legitimate threat to wreak havoc in the opponent's backfield and will give offenses someone for whom they must prepare. After struggling last season in a new scheme that did not make the most of his abilities, Kampman should be motivated to show that he can still be a dominant 4-3 defensive end.
Smith has stated that the D-line is the deepest position in the draft, and you can bet that he intends on finding at least one more pass rusher to put on the other side of Kampman. Disappointments Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves (both high draft picks in 2008) have not developed into NFL-caliber players and Smith has shown with his successful '09 draft class that he is a better talent evaluator then his predecessors, James Harris and Jack Del Rio.
While the Jags still have a long way to go in fixing their defense — plenty of help is needed on the defensive line in addition to outside linebacker and free safety — the signing of Kampman is a big step in the right direction.