(Updated: 5:30 p.m.)
Needing to be under the salary cap ahead of the start of the new league year, the Ravens have officially parted ways with six-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell.
At least for now.
On Monday, Baltimore announced the release of the 36-year-old Campbell, which saves $7 million in both cash and cap space. However, general manager Eric DeCosta said he has “not closed the door on the possibility of him returning to our team in the future.” That stock comment was often made by predecessor Ozzie Newsome in the wake of a popular veteran’s release — with some individuals returning at a cheaper rate over the years — but it remains to be seen how much interest Campbell will draw elsewhere or whether quarterback Lamar Jackson’s uncertain status could impact his decision-making process.
Campbell announced his intentions to return for a 16th NFL season last month, but the Ravens placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson last week, which put them over the 2023 salary cap. In three seasons with Baltimore, the 6-foot-8, 307-pound defensive lineman registered 11 sacks, leaving him one shy of 100 for his distinguished career.
“Calais defines what it is to be a Raven,” DeCosta said in a statement released by the team. “He personifies professionalism, and his contributions to our organization – both on and off the field – are immense. With his passion, leadership, and toughness, Calais has undoubtedly produced a Hall of Fame-worthy career.”
If Campbell doesn’t return, the Ravens at least made contingency plans by re-signing defensive end Brent Urban last month and recently restructuring the contract of nose tackle Michael Pierce, who suffered a season-ending biceps tear in Week 3 last season.
In another departure that was considered all but a foregone conclusion, starting left guard Ben Powers is set to sign a four-year, $52 million contract with Denver that includes $28.5 million guaranteed, according to multiple outlets. After winning the starting job in training camp and starting all 18 games including the playoffs, the 2019 fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma was widely regarded as one of the best guards on the market this offseason, a reason why the Broncos were quick to come to terms as the negotiating window opened on Monday afternoon.
Pro Football Focus graded Powers 38th among qualified guards this past season, but he finished second among guards in pass blocking grade. He started 36 games over four seasons with Baltimore.
“Ben has probably improved as much as anybody on our team,” DeCosta said in January. “He had a phenomenal season this year [and] started every game. I don’t even know if he missed a snap. And Ben is a guy who we’d love to keep. My feeling is Ben is probably going to be sought after in free agency based on the way he played this year. We would never close the door on a player like Ben. We would always want to keep as many good players as we can. We’ll have discussions at some point with Ben.
“I’m just really happy and proud of Ben for the way that he played and the way that he’s really come on and matured over his time with us. I’m very happy for him and his family. They put themselves in a great position, and he’s a player that I think is going to do really well.”
With the 6-foot-4, 338-pound Powers vacating left guard, the Ravens could turn to 2021 third-round pick Ben Cleveland, who played just 92 offensive snaps in his second season. And depending on its own level of free-agent activity, Baltimore could net a 2024 fourth-round compensatory pick for Powers, which would certainly ease the sting of his departure.
Powers wasn’t the only former Raven to come to terms with another team on Monday as backup tight end Josh Oliver agreed to a three-year, $21 million deal with Minnesota that includes $10.75 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network. Oliver entered the 2022 preseason firmly on the roster bubble, but he instead emerged to become one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. He caught 14 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns in 17 games last season, and Baltimore could now be in line to receive a sixth-round compensatory pick for his departure.