Packers shouldn't sack KGB

Even with his inflated salary and deflated production, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila's sack potential makes him worth keeping on the roster, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence says.

With a salary-cap figure of $6.57 million and a seat on the bench when the starting defense steps on the field, defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila would seem to be a prime candidate to be released before the regular season kicks off.

After all, KGB has gone from one of the NFL's top sack artists to one of its most overpaid players in the span of a couple years.

His fall from grace — after four consecutive seasons of double-digit sacks — was underlined by his losing his starting job to Cullen Jenkins late last season.

With Jenkins in the starting lineup for the final four games of last season, the Packers' defense soared from near the bottom of the NFL rankings to No. 12 overall in yards allowed per game. Green Bay's run defense, exploited all season with the undersized Gbaja-Biamila at end, suddenly became stout with the bigger and stronger Jenkins holding the point. The Packers allowed a grand total of 40 points in those final four games after yielding an average of almost 36 in the previous three contests.

Not coincidentally, the Packers won their final four games.

KGB — who ranks second in team history with 64 sacks, four behind Reggie White's 68 — secured 49 sacks from 2001 to 2004, but had only eight in 2005 before finishing with a mere six in 2006. Jenkins, meanwhile, tallied 6.5 sacks. Here's an eye-popping comparison from last season: Gbaja-Biamila's sacks came in 750 snaps while Jenkins — never hyped as more than a decent pass rusher — was on the field for 409 defensive plays.

Based on individual production and team performance, it would appear Gbaja-Biamila has perhaps played his last snap with the Packers.

Not so fast, though.

First of all, it's not like the Packers are pressed firmly to the cap. Even after the rookies are signed, they'll be between $10 million and $11 million under the cap. That's ample room to gamble on Gbaja-Biamila and perhaps sign a player or two released either after the traditional June 1 cut date or a veteran waived before the regular season.

More importantly, though, players who can sack the quarterback aren't exactly a dime a dozen. The lack of such players, in fact, is a big reason why Mike Sherman gave Gbaja-Biamila a seven-year, $37.3 million contract — including $13.25 million up front — in April 2003.

(Before everyone rips Sherman for this foolish signing, some context is needed. KGB's biggest suitor was the Philadelphia Eagles, who at that time were battling the Packers for supremacy in the NFC. The Packers couldn't afford to lose a player coming off seasons of 13.5 and 12 sacks to such a rival).

Can Gbaja-Biamila return to the form that made him a feared rusher? Perhaps. Remember the theory that Gbaja-Biamila was playing too many snaps and therefore was too tired to do what he does best? Well, with Jenkins taking the every-down punishment, perhaps a fresher Gbaja-Biamila can be a more productive player.

Given the scarcity of the position and his track record, the Packers would be wise to keep Gbaja-Biamila one year too long instead of getting rid of him one year too early.

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


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