Packers sign Kampman

The Green Bay Packers secured one of the lynchpins of their defense, re-signing defensive end Aaron Kampman just hours before free agency started Friday night.

The steady if unspectacular Kampman, who tallied a career-high 6.5 sacks last season, would have been one of the most in-demand defensive players in an otherwise unimpressive free-agent class.

Kampman ranked second on the team in sacks and tackles (121), and forced a team-leading three fumbles.

Terms were not available. Tennessee re-signed defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch last month with a four-year deal worth $21 million. That contract included $14.5 million in guaranteed money.

Kampman's contract figured to be worth less, since Vanden Bosch was one of the league leaders in sacks with 12.5 last season. However, with Kampman one of the top defenders hitting the market, the Packers may have felt the need to open the checkbook.

They certainly were in position to do so. The Packers started the day a league-best $35 million under the salary cap, and because of it, they may have been in the same neighborhood as Vanden Bosch in terms of guaranteed bonus money. By paying more up front and less at the end of the contract - as most long-term contracts are structured to soften the immediate cap hit - the Packers could meet Kampman's demands while not putting future salary caps in jeopardy.

The other unrestricted Packers free agents are defensive tackle Grady Jackson, kicker Ryan Longwell, fullback William Henderson, running backs Najeh Davenport and Tony Fisher, quarterback Craig Nall, wide receiver Rod Gardner, offensive linemen Grey Ruegamer and Kevin Barry, and linebacker Paris Lenon.

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