Going, going, gone?

If Kampman tests waters in free agency, he could slip away

Last year, the Green Bay Packers almost lost their grip on Aaron Kampman. The defensive end was offered a tender by the Minnesota Vikings as a restricted free agent, but the Packers matched the offer and retained Kampman for the 2005 season.

Kampman turned around and turned in his best season as a pro, and now his value has skyrocketed. While many in Green Bay felt the Packers and Kampman were on target to wrap up a long-term deal prior to the start of free agency on Friday, it appears that the defensive end may test the waters as an unrestricted free agent. If that's the case, the Packers, under budget-minded GM Ted Thompson, could get out-bid by another team for Kampman's blue-collar services along the defensive line.

The Packers have had ongoing discussions regarding the status of Kampman, but both sides are reportedly far apart on an agreement. The Packers defense improved last season, and Kampman was one of the big reasons why. He finished with career highs in tackles and sacks (105 and 6 1/2). He is now in position to hit the jackpot with a contract that could average about $5 million a season. Tennessee's Kyle Vanden Bosch recently signed a four-year deal worth $21 million, including $14.5 million in guaranteed money.

Whether Thompson feels Kampman is worth as much remains to be seen. The Packers are expected to select a defensive lineman high in the NFL Draft, if not with the first pick. If the Packers select an end like North Carolina's Mario Williams, they may opt to set a limit on how much they want to pay Kampman. Keep in mind that the Packers also signed defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila to a multi-year contract in 2003 that included an $11 million signing bonus.

Kampman, while not generally regarded as a pass rushing end, was again a consistent performer for the team in the 2005 season. He will be in high demand if he becomes a free agent on March 3.

"The Packers have shown they want to keep Aaron (Kampman) and are in talks to see if a deal can be done prior to free agency," a source close to the Kampman said.

The free agent market at the defensive end position is regarded as average heading into the signing period, with New York Jets defensive end John Abraham leading the list. Abraham was franchised but is available via trade. With Cleveland Browns defensive end Orpheus Roye agreeing to a contract with the Browns this week, one more highly regarded talent has been removed from the equation.

"Kampman will be sought because he is consistent. The market price at the position may be magnified due to the overall questionable amount of available talent," one agent said. "If there was a time to be a free agent at the end position, this off-season may be as good a time as any."

Lane Adkins of Scout.com contributed to this story.

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