The Ravens said they were still open to Calais Campbell returning when they released him a little over two weeks ago, but the six-time Pro Bowl defensive end has reportedly closed the door on that happening.
According to NFL Network, the 36-year-old intends to sign a one-year deal with Atlanta, which came as a surprise with Campbell talking with multiple suitors — including playoff teams — and expressing a desire to get to the Super Bowl in what is likely to be his final season. Though the Falcons have been active in free agency with ample salary cap space to open the new league year, they finished 7-10 last season and appear set to start the unproven Desmond Ridder at quarterback after many speculated about the possibility of Atlanta pursuing Ravens superstar Lamar Jackson this offseason. Campbell is one sack shy of 100 for his career, a milestone he acknowledged was still in his sights at the conclusion of the 2022 season.
Scheduled to make $7 million and carry a $9.4 million cap number with Baltimore for 2023, Campbell couldn’t come to an agreement on a revised deal with general manager Eric DeCosta, leading to his March 13 release after three seasons with the Ravens. It’s no secret that the contract impasse with Jackson has led to a slow offseason for the Ravens, who have wanted to preserve as much cap flexibility as possible in the event of another team trying to sign their quarterback to an offer sheet. DeCosta hadn’t made an outside addition in the new league year until agreeing to a one-year, $3.25 million deal with veteran wide receiver Nelson Agholor last Friday.
Though entering his 16th NFL season and turning 37 in early September, the 6-foot-8, 307-pound Campbell will be missed on and off the field as he remained Baltimore’s best defensive lineman last season and was a respected leader of the locker room. Ultimately, the Ravens needed cap space and were willing to bet on their ability to replace Campbell before paying so much to someone at the end of his career and sacrificing other options.
Losing Campbell hurts, but he wasn’t likely to make or break the defense in 2023.
His return wouldn’t have impacted the Ravens’ long-term outlook along the defensive line, of course, but Campbell finding a new landing spot reminds of the organization’s need to add more youth to that position group, especially with Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington entering the final year of their rookie contracts. As it stands, 2022 third-round pick Travis Jones and 2022 rookie free agent Rayshad Nichols are the only Baltimore defensive linemen under contract in 2024.