NFL: Jaguars sign 2-time Pro Bowl DE Aaron Kampman
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars used veterans, rookies, former first-round draft picks and a few undrafted guys in hopes of generating consistent pass rush last season. Even with different schemes, various blitzes and some new faces, nothing really worked.
The Jaguars finished with a franchise-low 14 sacks in 2009, the fifth-lowest total in NFL history.
Owner Wayne Weaver, general manager Gene Smith and coach Jack Del Rio all vowed to revamp the defensive line, knowing the team stood little chance of making the playoffs without more quarterback pressure.
They may have found a solution with two-time Pro Bowler Aaron Kampman. The 30-year-old defensive end signed with the Jaguars on Sunday, giving the small-market franchise a big-time boost to their pass-rush woes.
Jacksonville, which also elevated its special teams with the signing of Kassim Osgood this weekend, targeted Kampman before free agency began Friday. The Jaguars hoped to land Kampman or former Tennessee defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who signed a four-year contract worth $26 million with Detroit.
Kampman's deal could be similar. Although he is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, Kampman is a year younger than Vanden Bosch, and despite playing in just nine games in 2009, finished with half a sack more than his counterpart.
The signing of Kampman also sent a strong message to former first-round draft pick Derrick Harvey and second-rounder Quentin Groves, who both struggled in their two seasons.
Kampman, who has 54 sacks, emerged as one of the NFL's elite pass rushers in recent years, recording a total of 37 sacks from 2006-08, but struggled in 2009.
Under new defensive coordinator Dom Capers last season, Kampman was asked to switch from a 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker — a significant change that would require him to learn the nuances of rushing the quarterback from a standup position instead of as a down lineman, and occasionally drop into pass coverage.
While Kampman never publicly complained about changing positions and coaches said his work ethic never wavered, it was clear that he wasn't particularly enthusiastic about making the switch.
Kampman gradually became more comfortable with his new position but wasn't nearly as productive as a pass rusher, tallying only 3.5 sacks before his injury.
Kampman sat out Green Bay's Nov. 15 win over Dallas because of a concussion — the first game he missed because of an injury since 2003. He returned to face San Francisco the following week, but sustained a season-ending knee injury.
Packers coaches said they hoped to re-sign Kampman in the offseason, and expressed optimism that he would continue to progress as an outside linebacker. But Kampman was widely expected to field free agent offers from 4-3 teams.
"Obviously I've gotten used to this 3-4," Kampman said in January. "I didn't get a chance to get a full year to critique and say, 'Hey, this is great.' But I was starting to get more comfortable with it. Having said that, I have a lot of experience in the 4-3. I think that I can do both."
Kampman had surgery Dec. 4, and said in January he was "very encouraged" by his progress in rehabilitation and expects to be ready to hit the field in training camp.
"Things have gone very, very well," Kampman said. "I'm very thankful."