Calais Campbell is the consummate professional and has been a great defensive player in the NFL for more than a decade. The Baltimore Ravens defensive end appeared to be considering retirement at the end of the 2021 season. However, a potential Super Bowl run sounds enticing enough to give it another go.
The six-time Pro Bowl defensive end will hit the market during the NFL free agency period. General manager Eric DeCosta and the front office have several key decisions to make in the offseason, which could significantly impact Campbell’s status for 2022.
Calais Campbell announced he’ll be playing in 2022
Calais Campbell was one of a few veterans potentially looking at retirement at the end of the 2021 season. The 14th year defensive end is 35 years old and has given so much to the game of football physically. It would not have been surprising to see him call it quits.
However, Campbell sounds like he has other plans. The Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman served as a guest analyst for Sky Sports during Super Bowl 56. During the broadcast, he shed some light on what his football future holds for him moving forward.
“I’m not retiring,” said Campbell. “I watched this game. And the feeling I have right now, after seeing them [the Rams] celebrate a Super Bowl championship, I have a desire to go out there and play football and compete. So, I’m definitely not retiring. I’m coming back.”
Retirement was seemingly a legitimate possibility for Calais Campbell in the offseason. However, he’s never played in a Super Bowl. Watching veteran Rams players like Aaron Donald, Andrew Whitworth, and Eric Weddle get their first ring motivated Campbell to run it back for another year.
The Ravens must make an important decision on the Pro Bowler in NFL free agency
The Ravens have a decent-sized list of free agents heading into the 2022 offseason. The crop of unrestricted free agents includes cornerback Jimmy Smith, safety DeShon Elliott, center Bradley Bozeman, and defensive tackle Brandon Williams. Calais Campbell is also on that list.
Baltimore will enter the NFL free agency period with just under $9.8 million in cap space, which is below the league average ($14.1 million). As a result, Eric DeCosta and company must make some smart money moves to afford to sign and re-sign players in free agency.
Campbell’s decision to play in 2022 will certainly be enticing news for the Ravens. The Miami product finished the 2021 season with 49 tackles, five tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hits, and 1.5 sacks.
While Campbell’s sack total was the lowest since his rookie season in 2008 (zero sacks), he was excellent at stopping the run. Pro Football Focus gave the 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year a grade of 80.8 for the year. Even though Campbell was productively manning the interior, DeCosta has been on record saying the Ravens want to get younger up front.
“We need to get younger, for sure, said DeCosta per Sports Illustrated. “This year, we had a lot of grizzly warhorses up there, upfront.”
Calais Campbell made $10 million in 2021. It’s possible that he’d be willing to take a lesser contract in pursuit of a Super Bowl run. If not, another team might be able to offer him more money than Baltimore can afford.
How Baltimore could replace the loss of Campbell
Surely, the Baltimore Ravens would love to bring Calais Campbell back in 2022. He is probably a more likely candidate to return than defensive tackle Brandon Williams. Still, if Eric DeCosta wants to get younger, he could look elsewhere to fill out the defensive line.
New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald will look for second-year defensive lineman Justin Madubuike to take the next step in his third season. The Texas A&M product recorded 36 tackles and two sacks in 2021. Broderick Washington, a 2020 second-rounder out of Texas Tech, has played sparingly. However, the Ravens likely want to see what they have.
The NFL free agency pool provides an opportunity for John Harbaugh’s squad to get younger on defense. Jadeveon Clowney (Browns), Derek Barnett (Eagles), and Emmanuel Ogbah (Dolphins) are younger options who will be unrestricted free agents. Whether or not the Ravens can afford those guys is a different story.
The more cost-effective approach could be to address the defensive line in the draft. The 2022 NFL Draft class features some high-upside prospects, including Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson, Georgia’s Travon Walker, and Cincinnati’s Myjai Sanders. Each of those guys would be a cheaper, more athletic option moving forward.
Bringing Calais Campbell wouldn’t be a bad thing at all, but it should be for the right price.