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Ravens set to acquire Jaguars Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell for fifth-round pick

The Ravens have agreed in principle to acquire Jacksonville Jaguars star defensive end Calais Campbell in a trade that would send Jacksonville a 2020 fifth-round pick, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed Sunday.

Campbell, 33, was due a $15 million base salary this season, the last year of his Jaguars contract. But the Ravens are finalizing a new two-year deal through 2021 worth $27 million, including $20 million guaranteed, according to the NFL Network, which, along with ESPN, first reported the trade.

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The move is general manager Eric DeCosta’s second in three days to bolster the Ravens’ pass rush, which finished No. 21 in the NFL last season in sacks. On Friday, the Ravens designated Pro Bowl outside linebacker Matthew Judon with the franchise tag, keeping him from reaching free agency. Now they’ve added another disruptive front-seven defender with the No. 171 overall pick they acquired from the Minnesota Vikings for backup kicker Kaare Vedvik last offseason.

Campbell, a 6-foot-8, 300-pound defensive end who graded out as the NFL’s second-best edge defender last season, according to Pro Football Focus, made his third straight Pro Bowl and fifth in six seasons after posting 6½ sacks, 25 quarterback hits and 10 tackles for loss. Over the past three seasons in Jacksonville, he had 31½ sacks and was rated no lower than the league’s No. 26 overall player by PFF.

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His arrival in Baltimore would address two glaring weaknesses on last season’s team: run defense (No. 19 in Football Outsiders’ efficiency rankings) and interior pass rush (five combined sacks by linemen, including defensive ends). According to PFF, there was no better run defender in the NFL last season than Campbell, who had 13 tackles for loss or no gain. According to ESPN, he also had the sixth-best pass-rush win rate among interior defenders, beating his block within 2.5 seconds on 16% of plays last season.

The three-time All-Pro selection, who’s capable of lining up anywhere along the defensive line, a valuable trait in Don “Wink” Martindale’s Ravens defense, is as durable as he is versatile. Over 12 NFL seasons, Campbell has started 168 of a possible 186 games in which he’s appeared and missed just six games overall, and none since 2014.

The Ravens got an up-close look at Campbell before last season and again after it. In early August, the Ravens hosted the Jaguars for two days of joint practices ahead of their preseason opener. After the team’s early playoff exit in January, the Ravens coaching staff worked with Campbell at the Pro Bowl, where they oversaw the AFC team. In early February, he was honored as the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year for his community involvement and philanthropic work.

Campbell had long been considered a possible salary cap casualty in Jacksonville ahead of the start of free agency. In parting ways with Campbell, the Jaguars continued a roster teardown that began last season with star cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s trade and could continue Monday, the start of the NFL’s legal tampering period.

When free agency begins Wednesday and some deals are officially announced, the Ravens could be mostly sidelined. Under the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement, which was ratified Sunday, the salary cap will be $198.2 million, meaning Judon’s franchise tag tender is projected to be worth about $15.8 million. If Judon signs a one-year tender of at least that value, and Campbell’s cap hit in 2019 is $13.5 million, the Ravens will have little financial flexibility to make other significant moves at positions like inside linebacker, defensive tackle and wide receiver.

That is mostly by design. Under DeCosta, the Ravens have been aggressive in signing homegrown players to long-term extensions, making high-value trades for players on expiring contracts and acquiring draft picks, seeking to capitalize on NFL Most Valuable Player Lamar Jackson’s team-friendly rookie contract.

Cornerback Marcus Peters (acquired for a fifth-round pick and inside linebacker Kenny Young), safety Earl Thomas III (signed to a four-year, $55 million deal), running back Mark Ingram II (three-year, $15 million deal) and Campbell are all set to hit free agency in 2021 or 2022, offseasons in which Jackson could sign a historic long-term extension. Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill reportedly signed a four-year extension worth $118 million Sunday; Jackson figures to make far more.

For now, the Ravens are surrounding him with one of the NFL’s best rosters. While the retirement of guard Marshal Yanda is a blow to the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense, the defense is poised to start two Pro Bowl players in its front seven and three Pro Bowl players in its secondary.

“What do we think our offense is going to do for our defense?" DeCosta asked rhetorically at the NFL scouting combine last month. "How do we think offenses are going to be forced to play against our defense, because we think our offense is pretty good? Last year, at this time, we had some unanswered questions. This year, we don’t think we have any unanswered questions [on offense], but we know we do, and we have to figure out what those unanswered questions are.”

On defense, at least, they’re starting to answer them.

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