The rumors are out there: the Packers are allegedly (and quietly) testing the waters to see if there is any interest for certain players in trade. The most common names that have surfaced have been cornerback Al Harris and center Scott Wells. Neither have apparently garnered enough interest as yet to pull the trigger, and neither have any first-day picks allegedly offered in return.
A friend of mine at PackerChatters mentioned to me that if we were to have wanted to trade Harris, the ideal time would have been after the 2007 season, when he was a Pro Bowler and his stock would have been high. Now, he's to the point where you may as well keep him around, rather than give him up for a mere fifth round draft choice.
Which got me to thinking: that's basic economic common sense. Buy low, sell high, right?
Which led me to this: maybe it is time to test the waters for Aaron Kampman.
Now, before you get the torches and pitchforks, hear me out. Trust me, I am a huge Aaron Kampman fan. Several years ago, Kampman was one of the Packers who visited the son of some friends of mine during his hospital stay in Green Bay for a brain tumor. While many of the players cruised around, putting in their community service time with "So, are you a Packer fan?" and "Who's your favorite player?", Kampman actually sat down with each and every child in that cancer ward, asked them how they were doing, why they were in there, and made a connection with every kid.
This was before Kampman even had a regular starting job, but he was "Packer People" in my eyes long before Ted Thompson coined the phrase. Don't believe for a moment that I am hating on Kampman. He's a class act all the way, and what he's done in the seasons since then only adds to why he is a great player and a great human being.
That stated, however, there comes a point where if we are going to be shopping players around, we should see what is out there for Kampman. The switch to the 3-4 defense and taking him out of his comfort zone should give us reason for pause to begin with. He's also about to turn 30 years old, and his stock may never be higher.
Amusingly enough, I had a poll on my blog a week or so ago asking which of the five linebackers would be the odd man out, and every one of them got at least one vote with the exception of Kampman...the only one who will be playing the position for the first time since his sophomore year at Iowa. Funny how we Packer fans have more faith in Kampman than the guys we've actually drafted to play that position.
Maybe he will do fine in the 3-4. Maybe not. Before dismissing the idea, though, read through my rationale:
Sell High. Kampman is a Pro Bowl player, despite playing on a troubled defensive unit last year. He didn't make the Pro Bowl last season but is still widely recognized as a solid starter and difference-maker along the line. He played in every game last season and missed double-digit sacks by a half, which would have been three years in a row with ten or more.
He would be regarded as perhaps the most valuable DE acquisition of the offseason, particularly by teams who are using a 4-3 defense. He's one-hundred-and-eighty degrees from the usual Cutler/Owens/Moss types that get traded because they are selfish and disgruntled. He's a team guy all the way.
But, Kampman is now 29 years old, and chances are, this is as good as he is going to get. He will turn 30 in November and if he has any struggles in the 3-4 (or simply with age or injury), his stock will plummet. Waiting a year like the Packers did with Al Harris simply meant that the Packer gained a year of service and lost the potential for the first-day draft pick they are hoping for today.
Kampman has the potential right now to bring in a bounty of draft picks from a team desperate for a 4-3 defensive end, and we know that is what Ted Thompson covets (moreso than aging players). And seeing Kampman is in the final year of his contract, there's no better time to trade a player, both as trader (little salary cap acceleration) and as tradee (ability to extend contract on your own terms).
Cutler helped set the market value. Whenever you make a Herschel Walker-esque trade (as NFL North teams tend to do, apparently), you tend to help establish the asking price for other players in trade. Jay Cutler, a 26-year old disgruntled quarterback with one Pro Bowl to his name was able to pull off a trade that garnered his former team two first-round draft picks, a third-rounder, and a quarterback able to compete for a starting job.
What do you think a 29-year-old defensive end with two Pro Bowls to his name is going to be pull in? Two first rounders? Probably not. But a first rounder and another first-day pick? Easy. We all know how much Thompson values his draft picks and tries to build slowly through the draft.
What teams are out there that would love to get a veteran defensive end for their 4-3 scheme? The Bills, Chiefs, Chargers, Bucs, and Redskins might all be interested in getting Kampman. Of course, so would Oakland and Detroit, but we're assuming that Thompson isn't that sadistic.
The potential gain is considerable. Seriously, think about it. We have a guy who hasn't played linebacker since he was 20 years old, and has been bulking up and training professionally as a defensive lineman ever since. While at 265 pounds, Kampman's size appears suitable for a 3-4 OLB, it's like saying that Brett Swain will be able to duplicate Sterling Sharpe's performance simply because they have the same playing height and weight.
If Kampman can't make the adjustment, there are precious few other spots for him to play in the defense. While I have faith in Dom Capers to spit-and-wire the defense in such a way that maximizes the talent we have, we still need to accept that the 3-4 is a transitional process and that Kampman as OLB is still an experiment.
The Packers have four high-priced linebackers on their roster as is: AJ Hawk, Nick Barnett, Brady Poppinga, and Brandon Chillar. They also have last year's late-season darling Desmond Bishop, and have also moved DE Jeremy Thompson back to OLB for the scheme change, too. One would have to imagine that if Capers can make something work with Kampman, he should be able to make something work with at least four of these guys, too.
But if the Packers were to get another 1st rounder this year for Kampman, there is a plethora of prototypical 3-4 OLBs available in this year's draft. Brian Orapko, Everette Brown, Aaron Maybin, and Larry English are all first-round prospects that would be able to take on that rush OLB spot.
Could you imagine the Packers being able to come out of the first round with, say, both Everette Brown and Malcolm Jenkins? The trade would essentially be Kampman for Brown, but we'd also get another first-day pick and the freedom to address another position in the first round.
Fairness to Kampman. As I said before, I really like Kampman, and part of my thinking for shopping him is for his own benefit. Players who are 30 years old probably don't want to spend the downslide of their career experimenting at a new position. Kampman is in a contract year and while I'm sure he'd like to finish his career as a Packer, he is also thinking about his final contract he will be signing soon.
If the move to OLB doesn't work out for him, Kampman may be at the mercy of Thompson when it comes to re-signing in Green Bay, or find himself with more modest free agent offers elsewhere. Look, Kampman has made his career off playing the defensive line. This is where he earned his name, and he is good at what he does.
If he is able to go to a team that want to continue to use him in the role he is used to playing, a 4-3 DE, he has a far better chance to get the big contract when he is 30 years old.. He also wants to be successful and be a team contributor, not have his performance potentially diminished because he's playing a new position.
If you have a choice between being a Pro Bowl defensive end or a developing outside linebacker, which would you choose at age 30? The potential that Thompson is shopping 28 year-old Scott Wells and 34 year-old Al Harris also sends the message that he wants this team getting younger and younger, and Kampman may want to pay attention to that, too.
There. For those of you who read through this far, thanks. If you disagree with me, that Aaron Kampman is too valuable to the Packers, is "Packer People", and is untouchable...trust me, I understand where you are coming from.
But if we are serious about making the best moves for this team, especially in making a transition to a new defensive scheme, we need to take a look at every avenue to improve...something Thompson has professed to do on many occasions. Seeing what is out there for any player, including Aaron Kampman, is one of those avenues.