Did the Packers outbid the 'Skins for Clifton?

Continuing with our free agency notes, here’s some insight on two longtime Packers, one of whom is now a Jacksonville Jaguar.

The fact that Chad Clifton returned to Green Bay, a place he and his wife adored and where they’re raising their two sons, is certainly no revelation. The surprising part was that Clifton decided to visit the Washington Redskins after talks stalled with the Packers, only to return and finish a deal in Green Bay. Clifton’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, has a good relationship with Redskins owner Dan Snyder, but he also has a good relationship with the Packers – or did during the time I was there – so it’s hard to believe there was a lack of transparency about what went on.

The real question from the experience is whether the deal Clifton signed with his preferred team, the Packers – three years, $19.5 million, with $7.5 million guaranteed – is better deal than the deal he had on the table when he took the trip to Washington. My sense is that it is, but not by a lot (the Redskins are clearly doing business differently this year; more on that in another post).

The situation with Chad and the Packers illustrates how, in most cases, the incumbent team clearly has the advantage in free agency. Clifton knows every nook and cranny in Lambeau Field and has been a comfortable presence around there for a decade, both on and off the field. It would have taken a dramatic situation for the Packers to him. It reminds me of last year when Kurt Warner took a visit to the 49ers with no intention of leaving Arizona.

Chad’s deal with the Packers is also a good example of a realistic contract for a 32-year-old tackle. His highest cash flow year is this year, with declining amounts in years two and three, giving him a realistic shot of earning the entire contract. Many of these big free-agent contracts feature blow-up years late in the deal, which may look good in the headlines but are simply funny money to pump the total value of a deal.

Speaking of the Packers and free agents, we outlined on Friday that the team would certainly lose a player who was one of its signature people for many years, Aaron Kampman. The other shoe has now dropped, with Aaron agreeing to terms with the Jaguars. As I’ve noted, the issue with Aaron is his return from his ACL, but he will instantly bring high character and solid leadership to that locker room in Jacksonville.

Kampman’s two-day stint into free agency was a bit unusual, with reports of him going and/or not going to places like Philadelphia and Seattle. The truth certainly lies somewhere in between, as Kampman’s agent, Neil Cornrich, can be a bit, shall we say, coy about the status of his clients. I’ve known Neil and long time and consider him one of the better agents around. As I’ve told him, though, he can be maddeningly evasive in naming a price for his player. He has mastered the negotiation skill of making the other side offer some kind of commitment to a number before he does.

For the second time in four years, however, Kampman’s compensation will be coming off a comparable from Kyle Vanden Bosch. In 2006, in negotiating Aaron’s deal, the most relevant data point was the then-recent deal between Vanden Bosch and the Titans – I went to bed every night hearing about that deal for a while. They ended up getting virtually the same deal that year – four years, $21M with $11M guaranteed.

In 2010, in negotiating Aaron’s deal, the most relevant data point for the Jaguars was the recent deal between Vanden Bosch and the Lions. D

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