GBP secures KGB

Surviving a tense period where it looked like premier pass rusher Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila would join the parade of free agents out of town, the Packers breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday.<P> The 25-year-old Gbaja-Biamila has signed $37 million deal which makes him a Packer through 2009, the team announced at a press conference Wednesday.<P>

"After much deliberation and prayer, I'm glad that this matter has been brought to a positive resolution," Gbaja-Biamila said. "I really thank God that I will be able to enjoy a long career with the Green Bay Packers, the team that I started with. I'm excited to get back to work and hopefully play a role in helping the Packers return to the Super Bowl, by the grace of God."

The deal is reportedly worth $37 million over seven years. Gbaja-Biamila, who was a restricted free agent, received $13 million in guarantees as part of the deal.

Green Bay emerged from negotiations which saw significant overtures from the Philadelphia Eagles to keep Gbaja-Biamila.

"I am extremely pleased that Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila's future is set with the Green Bay Packers," Green Bay Head Coach/GM Mike Sherman at Wednesday's press conference.

"Kabeer has a rare ability to pressure and sack quarterbacks as well as create turnovers. In the last two years our defense has been one of the league leaders in sacks, turnovers and third down efficiency. He has contributed significantly in helping us be successful in those categories, which I feel has helped us win games.

"I do not like having free agency hanging over a player's head during the season," Sherman said at the press conference. "I believe it is an unnecessary distraction. I like his focus to be totally on things that help us win games and championships.

"By getting him signed to a multi-year deal a year ahead, it allows me to have a clearer picture of our future from a personnel standpoint," Sherman said. "I appreciate the honest and forthright efforts of Bruce Tollner, Kabeer's agent, and all facilitating the process of getting this done."

The fourth-year pro, had entrenched himself among the NFL's pass-rushing elite in the past two seasons, compiling 25.5 sacks, the fifth-most in the league over that span. Gbaja-Biamila managed those impressive numbers even though he did not become a full-time starter until Week 6 of last season.

Along with the sacks come the intangibles. Gbaja-Biamila arrived from San Diego State with an admirable community service resume, and he hasn't slowed down since moving north.

"Gbaja-Biamila is also a big contributor to our community as well, along with his wife, Eileen. He is a man that possesses talent and character, qualities I look for in all the players who call themselves Green Bay Packers," Sherman said. "He is a very special player as well as a special person."

His character was recognized by the broader community of the NFL, as well as the Packers.

At season's end, "KGB" was named as the Packers' winner of the "Ed Block Courage" award in a vote of his teammates, recognizing his "commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage."

He also was honored by the NFL Players Association with the Packers' 'Unsung Hero Award,' acknowledging his "determination and commitment that transcended the playing field."

His numbers speak for themselves:

With a dozen sacks in 2002, "KGB" became the first Packers defender to post consecutive double-digit sack seasons since future Hall of Famer Reggie White in 1997-98. He augmented those contributions with a career-high 45 tackles, his first NFL interception (that he returned for a touchdown), a career-best 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and 4 passes defensed.

The 6-4, 255-pound Los Angeles native, a fifth-round selection of Green Bay in the 2000 NFL draft (the 149th player chosen), first commanded league-wide attention as a second-year pro in 2001 by amassing 9 sacks in his first 4 games, tying an NFL record. He then was en route to a season total of 13.5, fourth-most in the NFL.

Last season, Gbaja-Biamila served as an outside pass-rushing specialist in long-yardage and other obvious passing situations before being called upon to step in as the starter at the "elephant" end position for the last 11 games following a season-ending triceps injury to Joe Johnson. He proceeded to record 9 sacks over those 11 starts, matching his career single-game high with 3 in a Monday night game against the Miami Dolphins Nov. 4. With 12 sacks overall, he tied for fourth place in the National Football Conference and for sixth in the NFL as a whole, while playing in 15 games (he sat out the Carolina contest Sept. 29 with a rib injury).

With 27.0 career sacks (in 38 career games), Gbaja-Biamila now ranks seventh on the Packers' all-time list and in 2003 will have the opportunity to move past sixth-ranking Vonnie Holliday (32.0), Bryce Paup (fifth with 32.5) and Tony Bennett (fourth with 36.0). He also will be in position to become the first player in the team's 83-year NFL history to record three consecutive seasons of double-digit sacks. KGB currently is one of only three players in Packers annals to have posted two or more 10-sack seasons, joining White (1993, 1995, 1997-98) and Tim Harris (1988-89). "KGB" turned in his most memorable performance of the '02 season in Week 5 against the Chicago Bears at Champaign, Ill., sacking quarterback Jim Miller twice and recording his first NFL interception, snatching the ball after Joe Johnson had hit Miller's arm to pop it up in the air, then running 72 yards for his first NFL touchdown.

Six days later (Oct. 20), he made 4 tackles at New England and also recovered an errant lateral at the Patriots' 8-yard line to set up Green Bay's second touchdown in an eventual 28-10 victory.

The following week, he weighed in with another imposing effort against Washington (Oct. 20), twice sacking quarterback Patrick Ramsey among a career-high 8 tackles. He also voided one of the Redskins' final drives in a subsequent 30-9 Green Bay victory by forcing a Ramsey fumble that the Packers recovered and converted into a touchdown for a 27-9 lead. He additionally was credited with 4 pressures and 6 quarterback hits.

Gbaja-Biamila subsequently closed out his three-sack, Monday night performance against Miami with 6 total tackles, 2 pressures, 4 quarterback hits and 1 pass defensed. "KGB" also was a major factor in the Packers' 26-22 victory over the Minnesota Vikings Dec. 8, forcing a Daunte Culpepper fumble on Minnesota's final drive, complementing that effort with 6 total tackles, 4 pressures and 1 quarterback hit. A week later, he applied late-game pressure to 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia, forcing a pair of errant throws deep in Packers territory as Green Bay held on for a 20-14 win at San Francisco (Dec. 15).

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