Will Jenkins be the next KGB or Kampman?

Packers GM Ted Thompson gambles by giving a big contract to a player who made a difference in only four games last season, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence says.

In 2003, the Green Bay Packers paid big bucks to keep defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila.

In 2006, the Packers paid big bucks to keep defensive end Aaron Kampman.

A couple of days ago, the Packers paid big bucks to keep defensive end/tackle Cullen Jenkins.

No doubt, astute Packer Backer that you are, you can see where I'm going with this.

The decision to give KGB $37 million over seven seasons turned out to be a big mistake. Gbaja-Biamila had 10 sacks in 2003 and tied his career high with 13.5 sacks in 2004, but dropped to eight sacks in 2005 and had only six last season. He went from OK, to acceptable to a liability against the run.

The decision to give Kampman $21 million over four seasons turned out to be a big bargain. His 15.5 sacks last season led the NFC and more than doubled his career total from his first four seasons.

In which category will Jenkins' contract fall?

Jenkins busted his tail to get to where he is today. He wasn't even a sure thing to make the roster last season, but he proved indispensable in the final four games of the season. When he replaced KGB as a starting defensive end, the Packers' defense soared from 29th in the league to 12th in yards allowed.

Jenkins isn't Cletidus Hunt. He's not going to stare into his checkbook and get fat and lazy.

But KGB didn't get fat and lazy, either. He just wasn't a good enough player to deserve more than $13 million in upfront money. A combination of overuse as an every-down player and his inability to come up with an effective second move as a pass rusher rendered him a decent, but not elite, sack artist.

Will Jenkins earn his big payday? Only time will tell, but, boy, it's hard to imagine anyone other than, say Taylor Hicks, parlaying four solid performances into such a financial windfall.

It's not that general manager Ted Thompson was pushed into a corner. Certainly, Jenkins would have drawn interest around the league, but Thompson could have scared off at least most of those suitors by throwing a second-round restricted free-agent tender of $1.3 million on Jenkins. If another team decided to, say, offer Jenkins $16 million over four years, then Thompson could have matched it.

Thompson was presented with two options, and both were gambles.

By signing Jenkins to the one-year, restricted free-agent tender, he risked losing Jenkins if he had a big season and tested unrestricted free agency next offseason.

By signing Jenkins to a lucrative four-year deal, Thompson risks giving a decent reserve the kind of money given to an above-average starter.

In the end, Thompson figured the reward was bigger than the risk.

Jenkins will get $7 million this coming season, so if he bombs, he won't sabotage future caps, a la Hunt or Joe Johnson. And if Jenkins does even a decent impression of Kampman, then the $4 million average salary will be a bargain compared to what Jenkins would have earned next offseason.

For the future of the Packers, Jenkins must reward Thompson's faith. If he doesn't, the Packers will have sunk a ton of money into one position, and that's the quickest way to get into trouble with the cap.

"(Green Bay) gave me a chance, it gave me an opportunity to play, and that was big for me," Jenkins said.

Now, it's Jenkins' job to be big for the Packers.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.

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