It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Yes, the first few days of free agency was a mixed bag for Green Bay Packers fans.
While Packer nation breathed a collective sigh of relief that Chad Clifton would be back to protect Aaron Rodgers blind side, there is also a sadness that permeates the Packer faithful. Aaron Kampman, a favorite son, has left behind the bitter winds of Green Bay for the balmy breezes of Jacksonville, Florida.
Re-signing Chad Clifton was as close to a “must-do” as Ted Thompson has ever faced as Packers GM. With the Packers now a playoff-caliber team, leaving the left tackle position to unproven TJ Lang or a rookie draft pick would have endangered the welfare of their Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers. That could be a sure-fire way to sabotage a season.
But the man known as “Cliffy” will be back. One could smirk and say Ted Thompson went against form and signed the best unrestricted free agent offensive tackle on the market. But by doing so, Thompson spared himself the angst of having to consider dipping into the restricted free agent market. That, I’m sure, would have been painful for him to even think about.
But as Clifton returns, Kampman heads for greener pastures. When the move was made to a 3-4 defense, I wanted so badly to believe that Kampman could make the adjustment to linebacker. I wanted to believe it, but I just didn’t. Many tried to convince me. They pointed out that he had played LB his first two years at the University of Iowa. Others said that a good football player is a good football player, regardless of what position he is asked to play. Personally, I don’t subscribe to that theory.
I anxiously watched the Packers exhibition games. What I saw was not promising. Kampman was clearly a little lost and over-matched in coverage. Unable to fluidly change direction on the run, Kampman did not look comfortable in the defensive backfield. But it was only preseason, I told myself, again hoping…
But as the season wore on, I didn’t see much improvement. Even rushing the passer did not come easily to Kampman. Starting from a standing position, Kampman lacked the low power base and leverage he used to depend on to beat the hulking offensive tackles that often outweighed him by 50 pounds. Kampman was often stood up, breaking the momentum he would normally generate on the way to the quarterback. To his credit, he never stopped or gave up, resulting in a good number of quarterback “hurries” but not many sacks.
Unfortunately, when Kampman’s season came to an early end, the book closed on his career as a Green Bay Packer. With free agency looming, and his obvious unease with the positional change, fleeing the Packers for a team with a 4-3 defense was a foregone conclusion. Nobody can blame him.
The Packers would say all the right things, claiming to want to keep Aaron and offer him a contract. Whether they ever did or didn’t is unknown, but if they did, it was surely an offer they knew would be easily surpassed by other teams.
Aaron Kampman was a great Green Bay Packer, but not just on the field. A man of faith, Kampman is committed to a life of service. Whether helping AIDS babies in Africa or people in the tornado-ravaged towns of his his home state, Iowa, Aaron Kampman has always been there for others. He was a leader, a great role model and the epitome of “Packer People.”
As Nick Barnett wrote in a twitter message, Aaron Kampman would be sorely missed in the Packers locker room. The unfortunate reality is that through no fault of his own, he won’t be missed as much on the field. When a rookie 7th round draft choice can come in and do a good enough job replacing you, in the all-business NFL you won’t be long for that position, or that team.
The day Mike McCarthy made the decision to move to a 3-4 defense was the day that Kampman’s Packers legacy came to an end. I don’t believe anybody wanted it to work out that way, and both Kampman and the coaches did everything they could to forge a successful transition, but some things just can’t be forced by will alone.
Much like Sydney Carton in Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities was willing to sacrifice his own life to bring happiness to someone he loves, so Kampman was willing to sacrifice his All-Pro career as a defensive end for the benefit of the Green Bay Packers.
Thinking about what he is about to do, Carton declares, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.”
When he agreed to move to linebacker, Aaron Kampman could easily have been thinking the same thing.
Best of Luck, Aaron. We’ll see you in the Packers Hall of Fame one day.
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Jersey Al Bracco is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com. You can find more of Jersey Al ’s articles on several sports web sites: NFL Touchdown , Packers Lounge , Packer Chatters & Bleacher Report .
15 thoughts on “Green Bay Packers and 2010 Free Agency: A Tale of Two Signings”
Great text, Al. I still believe Kampman could’ve made the transition after 2 years, or at least have been used effectively as a 3rd down rusher, thus greatly improving our situational pass rush.
But all in all you’re right. He didn’t play well enough to warrant that kind of money, and considering what he showed when he was a DE, he wasn’t even a shadow of his former self.
I don’t blame him for leaving. Specially when he chose a team that doesn’t have any rivalry with us, that will not play us this year unless in the playoffs, which seems unlikely, and that he could’ve chosen to be nearer home if he went to Chicago, or could’ve opted for a more talented and possibly more ready for contention team in Philadelphia.
It probably was about the money, but knowing his character and care for our franchise, I wouldn’t rule out that he purposedly chose the Jaguars…
I’m one who don’t think trading him before was an option. Not Kampman, such a beloved player, and not after the Favre fiasco.
Your last sentence sums it all: We’ll see him in the Packers Hall of Fame one day…
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Yes, a role as a part-time pass rusher at those dollars would not work. And it’s not what Kampman wanted, I’m sure. He wants to play and be comfortable doing it. Just glad, as you are, that he didn’t move within the division.
I am not denying that the defense improved from the 2008 defensive squad, but its not a given that the 2008 4-3 defense with a new coach and draft class would not have also improved. IMO the 2009 defense (3-4) was great against the run, but woefully inadequate at times against the pass.
The data of the 2009 defense (not the final stats) are night and day at times, I believe more of a reflection of playing so many teams with losing records. The Dallas and Ravens games had the advantage of home field and pure heart and determination, not so much the technical scheme of the 3-4.
It would not surprise me if our defense either starts slow in 2010, or has a repeat of a 2008 performance as we make this transition.
IMO the continued growth and success of this defense rests with the LBs. We are not returning 4 or 5 year veterans with solid performances in this new scheme. I have high hopes for Mathews, but the possibility of a sophomore slump exists, Hawk/Chillar/Bishop had their issues last year and we are looking at a rookie or Brad Jones with only Poppinga as a back up.
Not only did Kampman not make the transition but Thompson and Poppinga don’t look like true OLBs either, considering a 7th round rookie beat them out.
I view the LBs as more important than the secondary, in a 3-4 defense they are key in stopping the run and pass, no matter who is playing in our secondary. We are on shaky ground with our LBs, even if Barnett and Mathews play well.
My prediction, unless the draft or free agents change my mind, our defense will struggle next year.
You make a good point that the defensive stats are all over the place on a game by game basis. Overall, as I had written last preseason, this was a defense that would give up yardage and live and die by the turnover. The run D was better than expected, but in games where the defense didn’t get enough turnovers, many points were scored.
Improving the pass rush (which is going to have to come from the linebackers) will be the key to their improvement next year. Some better DB talent is also needed, but a great pass rush can hide a lot of deficiencies in the secondary.
As much as I will miss him, I’m glad he’ll get to play the position he knows best. Playing in space as an OLB was not comfortable for him. I’m sure he is also thinking about injury again.
He was a great Packer as a player and a man. God bless you Aaron and I hope you make All-Pro next year.
Very nice Al. An excellent tribute to a true professional. I had hoped for the best for him transitioning to the 3-4 as well. But it was obvbious as early as last years OTA’s with his unwillingness to talk to the media about the change that it probably was not going to. One word described Kampman in the 3-4: uncomfortable. His hand wasnt on the ground anymore and playing in space was not his best attribute. In one sense, his ACL injury may have saved him from more potential criticism about his drop off in performance.
I wish Aaron the best of luck in Jacksonville and also look forward to his return to Green Bay as a GB Hall of Famer.
From comments he has since made, it seems like Kampman most disliked the mental aspect. having to worry about what receivers, tight ends and running backs are doing. He much preferred the simplicity of the one-on-one battle with the offensive tackles.
Very nice, Al. Best of luck to Aaron. Very classy guy. I don’t know that the defense will necessarily start slow this year or struggle, though. My opinion is Packers-centric, of course, but we have to remember that the Steelers and Cards defensive meltdowns were perpetrated by a very, very injured secondary. We had Matt Giordano, Josh Bell and Jarrett Bush playing tons of snaps at the end of the year. That’s bad. Certainly we need more pass rush, especially from the LOLB to take it to the next level. But I don’t see any reason the ’10 defense will not be as good against the run as last year, even if we don’t upgrade that LOLB. Guys will be in their 2nd year of this defense, too. We’re young. There is more than one reason why this D could be BETTER in ’10.
As I said in a comment above, they just need to find a way to improve the pass rush. That will most likely have to come from the LB position, as our DL are not get-after-the QB types. Betetr depth in the secondary would also allow for more blitzes from the secondary, a tactic Capers had to mostly shelve once the DB depth was depleted.
Great blog! It’s sad to see Kampman go, but I’m glad he’s found a place he can play the way he wants to and show off his talents at the same time. The fact that the Kampman signing made me sad brings to mind thoughts of what it would be like if a player like Donald Driver was no longer a Packer. I can’t even imagine. Although, he is nearing the end of his contract and is getting older – and Ted likes his players young. And Donald wants to play until he is 40. Doesn’t bode well for the Donald Driver lovers like myself and every other Packer fan.
Thanks! Yes, it’s Ted’s way not to pay a lot of money to guys as they get older, but rather let them walk. I don’t think Driver gets another contract in GB. Sad, but, it’s a business…
While I tend to agree with your statement that Ted doesn’t not pay older players, I do think that Clifton and Tauscher would be classified as older players by all and some felt that they were overpaid by Thompson.
I did read a quote by Aaron Kampman that stated that he did get an offer from the Packers. I personally would guess that it wasn’t as much much as he got signing for the Jaguars… and to be able to get back to doing what you feel comfortable doing was just the icing on the cake.
Thanks for writing and saying what I would have said about Aaron. Just a class guy all the way around.
Good stuff as usual Jersey Al.
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