Vikings land another blow

The Minnesota Vikings gave the Green Bay Packers another reminder this past week that the off-season can be just as competitive as the regular season. The Vikings signed Packers restricted free agent Aaron Kampman to an offer sheet and, in the process, chalked up another off-season victory over Green Bay.<p>

Since free agency began in early March, the Vikings have taken a serious run at dethroning the Packers from the top of the National Football League's NFC North Division. The Vikings have signed a number of big-name free agents to bolster their woeful defense, including safety Darren Sharper, cornerback Fred Smoot, defensive tackle Pat Williams and linebacker Sam Cowart. Now the Vikings are poised to use the draft to help make up for the loss of Randy Moss in a February trade with Oakland when they obtained linebacker Napoleon Harris.

The Packers gave Kampman the minimum tender of $656,000 in February. Kampman, who has started since early in the 2003 season for the Packers, was free to pursue offers from other teams and received a lot of interest, according to his agent Neil Cornrich. It is believed that the Vikings offered Kampman more than $1 million to play for them next season. The Packers have until Wednesday morning to decide to match Minnesota's offer. If Green Bay doesn't match the offer, it will receive Minnesota's fifth round selection in this year's NFL Draft. Kampman was drafted by the Packers in 2002.

The Packers reportedly have money under their salary cap to re-sign Kampman, about $6 million, but will need more than half of that to sign their draft picks. The Vikings entered free agency about $30 million under the NFL mandated salary cap of $85.5 million, the most of any NFL team. Though the Vikings have used most of their cap space on free agents, they obviously still have enough to sign Kampman. But even if the Packers match Minnesota's offer, the Vikings will have successfully put another chink into Green Bay's delicate cap space.

Green Bay coach Mike Sherman and defensive coordinator Jim Bates like Kampman. They like his work ethic, experience and character. The Packers cannot afford to let him go. Green Bay's defense needs all the help it can get. Losing Kampman to the Vikings would no doubt come back to haunt the Packers.

The Packers will keep Kampman, but at a higher price than expected, and the Vikings will be giddy.

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