Calais Campbell’s career in Baltimore was short but impactful.
The 36-year-old veteran defensive lineman spent just three of his 15 seasons in the NFL with the Ravens, but he made the Pro Bowl in 2020 and last season was the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award winner. He was also a respected voice in the locker room and mentor to a young defensive line that had barely more collective experience than he did on his own.
But Campbell’s 100th career sack won’t come in a Ravens uniform. After Baltimore released him earlier this month in a cost-cutting move, Campbell is signing with the Atlanta Falcons, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The deal is reportedly for one year.
Campbell was signed with Baltimore through the 2023 season, but he carried a $9.44 million salary cap hit. The Ravens freed up $7 million in space by releasing him.
Though the Ravens could possibly afford to lose Campbell with defensive starters Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington and Michael Pierce all returning, and Travis Jones coming off a solid rookie year, his leadership and ability will be missed.
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Last year, Campbell had 36 tackles, 5 1/2 sacks and 14 quarterback hits in 14 games. Pro Football Focus graded him as the NFL’s 15th-best interior defensive lineman last season and over the past two years he was in the 85th percentile of all players in pass rushing and the 97th percentile against the run.
“I feel like I was still able to affect the ballgames, and that’s important,” Campbell said after last season before announcing he’d return for a 16th NFL year. “I think that wouldn’t do justice to my career and my legacy if I go out there and become less than what I’ve been.”
A six-time Pro Bowl pick who was a second-round pick by the Cardinals in 2008, Campbell was also the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2019 and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 2010s.
Last year, Campbell contemplated leaving the Ravens before texting general manager Eric DeCosta and telling him that he wanted to come back. He then signed in April. This year, as free agency wore on and the Ravens’ cap space continued to dwindle, along with the uncertainty around quarterback Lamar Jackson’s status, it became obvious that Campbell wouldn’t be rejoining the Ravens again.
Still, DeCosta didn’t rule out a possible return to Baltimore for Campbell after releasing him and said, “Calais defines what it is to be a Raven. He personifies professionalism, and his contributions to our organization — both on and off the field — are immense.” But that became far less likely after Campbell visited with the Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars last week. He was also scheduled to visit the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions this week, according to reports, before he decided to sign with Atlanta.
He now joins a Falcons team that has made a number of notable additions this offseason. Before the Campbell signing, Atlanta had already added safety Jessie Bates, defensive tackle David Onyemata, linebacker Kaden Elliss and linebacker Tae Davis in free agency. They also re-signed linebacker Lorenzo Carter.
According to a WZGC-FM report in Atlanta, Campbell’s visit with the Falcons a week ago went “really well.” Before making his decision, Campbell also had a 40-minute phone call with owner Arthur Blank in which the two discussed leadership, charitable efforts, and Campbell’s efforts in the community, according to Rapoport, and that helped seal the deal.