The Green Bay Packers retained defensive end Aaron Kampman on Wednesday afternoon, matching the terms of the one-year restricted free agent offer sheet that the three-year veteran signed with the Minnesota Vikings last week.
The offer sheet was for $1.2 million, including a $500,000 signing bonus and base salary of $700,000, which the Packers now will pay. The Packers had been expected to match the deal rather than allow a solid young player to join a divisional rival.
Green Bay had made Kampman, who started all 16 games at left end in 2002, the low-level restricted free agent qualifying offer of $656,000 two months ago. By tendering Kampman the qualifying offer, Green Bay retained a right of first refusal. Had Green Bay not matched the offer sheet, Kampman would have moved on to the Vikings and the Packers would have received a fifth-round draft choice.
The Packers now may pursue a long-term deal with Kampman. Should there be no extension, Kampman will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring.
Kampman, 25, has outplayed his fifth-round draft status. Given that he was a starter in '04, and finished fourth on the team in tackles (77), it was somewhat surprising that the Packers did not make him the middle-level qualifying offer. That would have carried a price tag of $1.43 million but also a compensation level of a first-round choice, which probably would have scared off any potential suitors.
A former Iowa standout, Kampman has made consistent progress in Green Bay. Regarded as a hard-working, blue-collar defender, Kampman has developed into a far better athlete than he was projected to be coming out of college.
Besides his 77 tackles in 2004, Kampman registered a career-high 4½ sacks and had two forced fumbles, one recovery and three pass deflections. He started 16 games during his first two seasons with the Packers, including 10 in 2003.
For his career, Kampman has appeared in 40 games and has 141 tackles, seven sacks, five forced fumbles and two recoveries. He also has three sacks in playoff appearances.
The Vikings clearly felt that Kampman would have been a good fit on a defense that ranked 28th in the league in 2004 but has undergone a dramatic overhaul during the offseason. The Vikings have acquired five new defensive starters -- linebackers Sam Cowart and Napoleon Harris, tackle Pat Williams, cornerback Fred Smoot, and free safety Darren Sharper -- via trades or free agent signings.
Even though the Vikings failed to add Kampman, team officials felt the pursuit of the young defensive end was a chance worth taking.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.