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A good early vibe


He's taking a wait-and-see approach, and in this case, Aaron Kampman said that's something to be excited about.

Kampman, a 10-year veteran defensive end and a leader for the Jaguars on the field and off, has experience enough in the NFL – and specifically with this free-agency thing – to know that despite all the money, expectations and excitement, nothing is guaranteed.

Clint Session. Paul Posluszny. Dawan Landry.

Drew Coleman. Jason Spitz. Matt Turk.

All have signed free-agent contracts with the Jaguars in recent days – some of them very, very big free-agent contracts. And with the signing of the first four have come expectations of an improved defense – and by extension, an improved team, maybe even a post-season contending one.

Kampman said the truth is there's no way to predict just how long it will take the players to be acclimated, and no way to tell how much the Jaguars' defense may improve.

And to Kampman, that's a good thing.

"I don't think it's fair to say either way, if it will be fast or slow," Kampman said after a recent practice in Jaguars training camp, which continued Monday with a pair of practices.

"I think it's really something where you wait and see. That's kind of the exciting part about it. It's all new. It goes back to each guy, what he's willing to put in."

When Kampman talks about the situation facing Session, Posluszny and the other veteran free agents, he speaks from recent experience.

Kampman signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent last off-season, and before sustaining a season-ending knee injury, registered four sacks and gave the Jaguars a significantly improved pass rush. Before the injury, it was the sort of contribution a team wants from free agency, but doesn't always receive.

For every free-agency success story, there are stories of production drops, bad fits and disappointments, and Kampman said the difference between free-agency success and failure is pretty much the same as the difference for success and failure of any NFL player.

Those who work, and who fit what an organization is doing, have a chance to succeed, and while the future is difficult to predict, Kampman – who developed into a leader quickly upon his arrival in Jacksonville – said his early vibe from the free-agent signings is a good one.

Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith's emphasis on character and work ethic has become a trademark of the organization, and Kampman said it's critical in a free agent.

"From my initial conversations, and the things that Gene has mentioned, they're the right kind of guys," Kampman said.

Kampman said the most obvious obstacle facing the free agents is a short-term one. Current rules state that free agents signing can't practice with the teams with which they sign until Thursday, August 4. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said throughout the weekend he thought that might change, and that the players might be allowed to work with their teams as early as Monday, but as of now, the Thursday date remains.

Every day lost, Kampman said, is significant, but he said the simplicity of the Jaguars' defense – and the experience of the free agents – will help the process.

"We got guys who aren't rookies," he said. "They are guys who have played football in this league, so that's going to help the learning curve, obviously. Again, I think our defense is one that's predicated on fundamentals and doing everything right as opposed to having a playbook that's a foot thick."

As for exactly how each free agent will adapt, and how effective he will be, Kampman said it's impossible to predict. But it's what will make the coming weeks not only fascinating, but critical to the short- and long-term future.

"I think the reality is everyone wants to put a formula on it," Kampman said, "but every guy is different. The reality is every guy has his own learning curve based on experience and the ability to absorb information, his intangibles, his instincts. Each guy will bring something different to the table. That's what makes it unique.

"That's the mixing that all goes together, the coaching, the interaction with players. It all goes together and you get synergy that way."

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