High-character KGB is still worth the money
This guy gets it.
Rather than complain through every medium possible as Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant did with an arrogant pout, Gbaja-Biamila has mimicked Brees. Last year KGB’s production declined, the Packers’ pulled him from the starting lineup, handed a hefty contract to his replacement, and get this - KGB sucked it up.
Gbaja-Biamila crashed and burned badly as a full-time starter. His sack total decreased from 13.5 in 2004 to 8 in 2005, and by two more last year.
Though 50 pounds heavier, Cullen Jenkins fully deserves the starting nod ahead of Gbaja-Biamila. But as a situational pass rusher, a fresh KGB can wreak havoc. For four years in that role he amassed 49 sacks while creating many turnovers through pressure alone.
An inflated base salary of $5 million per year still hangs over Gbaja-Biamila. But in a soaring salary cap era, that figure is the norm for a pressure specialist, especially when considering that Green Bay doesn’t have another pure speed rusher at DE and their overall cap situation is very healthy.
Reverting back to his old role, expect Gbaja-Biamila to be more effective. Whereas wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson stubbornly tried to use his previous accomplishments as ammo for a big deal, thus pricing himself out of the market, this eight-year veteran isn’t afraid to prove himself all over again.
“Now I’m kind of back where I started, so no one expects anything,” he said. “Everything that could be said that's negative has been said. ‘Can’t play the run, no longer a starter, only playing a little bit now, he’s overpaid.’
“I can't think of anything worse they could say about me, so now I kind of have that same feel, but I’m an established player, I get paid well for what I do. But nothing is expected of me, so I can go out there and everything I do is going to shock everybody.”
In a reduced role Gbaja-Biamila, 29, can focus solely on getting to the quarterback. As a full-timer, KGB was asked to be something he’s not and follow foreign assignments. He appeared hesitant on whether to follow his instincts and rush on a beeline, force the play inside, or drop into the flats for coverage. That split-second indecisiveness was enough for linemen to repeatedly force the undersized Gbaja-Biamila out of the play. By the time third-and-long rolled around, KGB was too exhausted to do any damage.
Now it’s back to a one-track, Bobby Boucher frame of mind: Just get the quarterback. And almost nobody comes close to Gbaja-Biamila’s top-end speed.
As a ‘sixth man’ in pads, KGB should be a pivotal cog in Green Bay’s defense coming off the bench. Not many teams have the luxury of a pass-rush specialist, let alone one who brings character and unselfishness to the locker room and the entire Green Bay community whether it’s his work with the Bay Area Humane Society & Animal Shelter or Manna for Life, the local food pantry/thrift store.
The big question facing Green Bay is whether KGB’s two-year statistical decline was a simple result of fatigue or a legitimate indicator that his career is in a freefall. Here’s thinking less is still more for Gbaja-Biamila. It’d be foolish for the Packers to send such a rare weapon to the streets, regardless of his cap figure.
Tyler Dunne is a student at Syracuse University and frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.