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Decision-making time looms for Packers and their DE futures…

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Bruce, Jan 29, 2007.

  1. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Decision-making time looms for Packers and their DE futures…

    Aaron Kampman is a rare professional football player. Continuing to follow a course charted over several season, 2006 saw Kampman take up residence in rare NFL territory, by not only made his first the Pro Bowl, but by being named to the all-National Football Conference team along with Julius Peppers.

    I guess the best place to start explaining how Aaron got there is by pointing out that this fifth round draft steal from the 2002 draft has improved significantly every single season since entering the NFL. Kampman’s Herculean 2006 performance finally helped him shake the dreaded “over-achiever” label mistakenly given to Aaron because of his legendary work ethic, study habits, and game preparedness shined so bright that it may have dimmed the light of his special talent.

    These accolades did not come without notable accomplishments like:

    • leading the NFC with 15½ sacks – joining legendary Hall of Fame Packer, Reggie White, as the only Packers in team history to lead the conference in sacks (Reggie posted 16 sacks in ‘98’);
    • by posting a team record 113 tackles (by a defensive lineman), previously set by Ezra Johnson’s 107 in 1983; and,
    • taking over a leadership role on a defense that is young and poised to move into an increasingly prominent role, after years of playing little sister to GB’s powerful offenses.

    Making his 2006 season even more impressive is the simple fact that Aaron achieved all of above after receiving his big (“I-got-mine”) payday contract last off-season, which too often results in players letting up or at least leveling off in hard work and/or development.

    No, not Aaron Kampman, who played an amazing 93.2% of the snaps this past season. In addition to the breath-taking sack and tackle numbers he put up, #74 parlayed his increased playing time into real production with his 55 pressures – giving plenty of NFC QB’s and RT’s nightmare in the process.

    Aaron is smart, quick, plays with a low pad level and understands leverage as well as any lineman in the league. Despite these fine attributes, it is his desire and fire that result in him turning into a mad man from snap to whistle each pay and makes him one of the special players in the league.

    Best yet, despite these amazing numbers put up by the just turned 27 year old Kampman, he still has upside and with his history, work habits and heart it is not unreasonable to expect him to be even better next season. Finally his humility endears him to most knowledgeable fans:

    "I feel very, very blessed," Kampman said "This has been very, very good and a lot of people go into all of that along this whole way. I'm just very thankful."

    [​IMG]

    Like I started, Aaron Kampman is a rare football player…

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    Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, like Aaron Kampman, plays with the heart of a lion. Unfortunately, the lion-hearted KGB has a physic more like that of cheetah – built for speed but not for the rigors of close quarter tangles – the kind that are required of every-down defensive linemen feeding in the trenches on the NFL Serengeti’s.

    Topping off at 250 lbs (early in the season wearing full pads after a big pre-game meal) KGB wears down to the lower 240’s over the course of a game and season, this wear down shows especially against the run.

    Consideration of rotating him, like happened earlier in his career has been talked about and pondered for several years. Contemplation finally came to action in week 13 of the ‘06’ season, when Cullen Jenkins (evaluation to follow) finally was healthy enough to take over on most 1st and 2nd down running situations.

    Despite the delusional babbling of some fans who would tell you he is a bum who never belonged in the NFL, KGB plays with extraordinary effort, very good leverage, has great burst and fights and scratches his way into opponents backfields despite being undersized and double-teamed by opposition coordinators on 31% of pass plays in ‘06’.

    Yet for years, many sane observers and fans have been declaring that a fresher KGB would be a more explosive KGB, and a huge positive for the Packers defense. So now it finally happened, and with KGB and Kampman outside and Williams and Jenkins inside, this combination has produced an impressive pass-rushing unit that is young, hungry and improving

    Since it is likely that KGB’s days as a full-time player are over in Green Bay KGB’s base salary of $5 million for '07 is likely to be re-visited by TT – especially given his sack total was his lowest since his rookie campaign. While Kabeer is signed through the '09' season, it is probable that he will be asked to either rework or extend his contract to a more CAP friendly territory

    However, it is important to note that all pass rush specialists command large salaries on the open market and the release of Kabeer would create a large need area that most teams find very hard to fill. Also needing to factored into TT’s difficult decision are the relatively high “pressures” numbers and frequency of KGB drawing double teams in passing situations and how they aided Kampman in putting up the sack numbers he did.

    You can know that much of TT’s ultimate decision will depend upon on the opportunities for change that may or may not present themselves in the upcoming draft and slim pickings of the ‘07’ free agent market.

    Other factors that must be considered when evaluating the 29 year old KGB are his leadership contributions, exemplary work ethic and team-first attitude:

    "I want to do whatever it takes to help this team win. I'm a part of a team and I just want to do whatever I can to help this team. If that's playing some of the downs, so be it. If that's all of the downs, so be it. I've done both."

    [​IMG]

    KGB’s 63 career sacks are second only to Reggie White’s 68½ on the Packers' all-time list, and Kabeer will likely take down that record next season if he returns. Decisions like this are why Ted Thompson makes the big bucks…

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    RFA Cullen Jenkins emerged as a starter and near full time player late in the ‘06’ season. Jenkins, once an undrafted and street free agent, has worked to improve and earn every moment of playing time he has achieved while overcoming long odds in the process in fashioning an NFL career than rivals his higher profile brother, Kris, a Pro Bowl defensive tackle with the Carolina Panthers.

    After finally overcoming a chronic ankle injury, Cullen played at a level that perhaps pushed his contract negotiations from “working class hero” to “show me the money” turf over the course of the December stretch.

    His contributions to making Green Bay one of the top pass-rushing teams in the NFL were quite significant. Cullen had the most "pressures" per play – one every 15 and ½ snaps – and was third in tackles per snap with on one every 8 and ½ plays he participated in.

    As stated above his participation and value to the team sky-rocketed down the December home stretch, once Jenkins became fully healthy and available to play both DE and DT.

    At 6-3, 290-pounds, Cullen gives a much stouter Right Defensive End on early run downs than KGB, but one who still has significant burst – especially in his first step/explosion off the snap. Adding to that value is his ability to slip back to the inside to Defensive Tackle on passing downs and join Corey Williams as DT’s that can push the pocket back into the faces of NFL QB’s.

    Beyond that impressive first step, Cullen is a football player who plays with instinct and a feel for the game. He has only decent strength, but uses it well with his long arms and ability to find the ball and make plays. He would benefit greatly by throwing himself into an off-season workout program, but as a family man this may not be in the cards.

    Always the tough negotiator Ted Thompson seems to understate Cullen’s contributions saying:

    "He played all right. He has some versatility and he played well. Good year."

    Jenkins, a husband and father of two has never earned more than $430 thousand and some change in a single season, is going to draw significant interest from one or several of the suddenly cash cap rich NFL teams if he is not tendered properly or signed to a long term contract before the free agent season begins.

    A middle tender of $1.7 million would give the Packers the right to match or beat any contract offers and result in a 1st round draft pick if they decided to pass on a “too rich” offer. The top tender, $2.2 million would change the price to a first & a third round pick and is not totally out of the question. What should be off the table is low-balling Jenkins with the lowest of the three possible tenders $770,000, which would still give the Packers the right to match any offer, but would net them no compensation if he were given an offer TT found to rich for his blood.

    Most knowledgeable football scouts and coaches agree that the Packers had better place at least the middle tender on him or prepare to say goodbye, because Cullen will be inundated with offers by anything less.

    [​IMG]

    Not one to overstate, Cullen simply says,

    "I just know I played pretty well. It was my best year. I think I was just a lot more consistent. The older you get, the more you learn, and you come in each year, work hard and hope you get better. I think I did that."

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    Complicating the decision making is the very real drop-off in talent after the top three at the Defensive End position.

    Jason Hunter is a speed rusher who contributed on special teams and as a back up DE, getting 34 snaps and flashing his speed and potential. Unfortunately, like a lot of undersized young speed rushers, the 6-4 250 lb 23 year old is raw and plays out of control. He does have talent, and beat the odds by claiming a roster spot.

    [​IMG]
    Jason’s positive attitude and contributions on special teams may land him a chance to develop and another roster spot in ‘07’, but certainly has not shown anything that should lead him to relax or get overconfident.

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    Mike Montgomery is likely at a cross roads. At only 23, this 6-5 275 lb young man is coming off of season-ending knee ligament damage. While it did not require surgery, it was not surprising to see the Packers make this move, because Montgomery was horrible against the run every time he stepped onto the field. He has long arms and the type of high-energy motor teams are looking for, but has not gained the strength that one would like to see an NFL defensive lineman possess.

    [​IMG]

    Montgomery has limited upside and is never going to be a star in the NFL, but Mike could fashion a decent career as a backup and rotation player if he continues to work hard and takes up residence in the weight room during the off-season, where he hopefully could gain the strength that holds him back from taking his game up a notch – often the difference from owning a roster spot and visiting the waiver wires.

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    ‘07’ draft pick Dave Tollefson obviously did not think he had a future here competing with the 5 guys in front of him here in GB. Tollefson recently took his 6-4 255 frame to Oakland, signing a contract to gain a fresh start on the West Coast as a raw pass rushing talent.

    Unlike DT, DE is a position that will require a good deal of attention from GB’s young GM.

    Each decision TT makes on individual players will have a major impact on whether this becomes a position that will require early or late attention in the draft and/or free agency.

    All of which makes off season's worth much more than the price of admission.
     
  2. porky88

    porky88 Cheesehead

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    I did read the Packers are trying to sign Jenkins to a long term deal. Take it for what it's worth. I think it would be a bad move to let him walk but the reality of it is he really didn't come on huge until the last quarter of the season. I‘m guessing that‘s what the Packer organization is thinking and that‘s why they won‘t give him a big deal. I do hope they can lock him up though. I don't think it's a coincidence that we won our last 4 games with Jenkins starting at DE.

    Another nice read Bruce.
     
  3. TOPackerFan

    TOPackerFan Cheesehead

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    "However, it is important to note that all pass rush specialists command large salaries on the open market and the release of Kabeer would create a large need area that most teams find very hard to fill."

    Best part of the post Bruce. KGB's $5 million salary won't look too out of whack in this coming offseason I bet given the huge increase in the salary cap. If we cut him, he'll get at least that amount elsewhere and we'll have to go find a replacement. The Jenkins KGB rotation is probably the best bet for the Packers.
     
  4. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Re: Decision-making time looms for Packers and their DE futu

    Thanks Porky and TO.

    I agree that it was an important point TO, but I think I might have made one or two more in writing this article :wink:
     
  5. PackerLegend

    PackerLegend Cheesehead

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    Re: Decision-making time looms for Packers and their DE futu

    Correct me if im wrong but im pretty sure Jenkins was hurt at the start of the season and didnt play some games, and after that I dont think he really got to see a lot of playing time until towards the end of the season.
     
  6. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Re: Decision-making time looms for Packers and their DE futu

    No need to correct you Legend, Jenkins missed 2 and 1/2 games and played limited with the dreaded high ankle sprain. The SF game was the first time he was at full strength in many weeks and he took off there after -- putting up the impressive numbers listed in the article.
     
  7. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    Thanks for your vigorous defense of KGB, Bruce. We will be in good shape with Kampman, Jenkins, and KGB all in the fold for next season--unless one of them gets hurt. It is really striking how once you get past those three, you really don't have any legitimate threats at that position. The other guys are just pass rushers. Unless Thompson drafts a good DE with some size, Cory Williams might be option #4 at DE, and of course it weakens the DT rotation to shift him over to DE.
     
  8. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Hunter has upside, but is as raw as they come. Mongomery might be decent depth if he increases his strength considerably -- but he is one of those guys who needed to lose weight to increase his quickness, but was negatively impacted in the already marginal strength department.

    Both have decent motors though,

    I look for TT to pick up at least one DE, but much will depend in a domino sort of way on his decisions regarding KGB and Jenkins on how big a move he will need to make.

    Other posters -- writing articles like this are a lot of work. I would not mind

    :feedback:
     
  9. Zombieslayer

    Zombieslayer Cheesehead

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    Bruce - glad you mentioned KGB's better than folks realize. He has been drawing a lot of double-teaming, which has opened up things for Kampman.

    We need all three - Kampman, KGB, and Jenkins. It would be a shame to not resign Jenkins.
     

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