Days before the scheduled start of the new league year, the Ravens have quite possibly made their biggest move of the offseason to boost their pass rush and front seven for the 2020 season.
General manager Eric DeCosta is set to acquire five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell from the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for a 2020 fifth-round pick, according to multiple outlets. The deal will not be made official until the start of the new league year, which is currently scheduled for Wednesday at 4 p.m. Campbell, 33, is scheduled to make $15 million base salary in the final season of a four-year deal, but the sides are nearing an extension to keep him under contract through 2021, according to NFL Network.
Coming off his third straight Pro Bowl campaign with the Jaguars, the 6-foot-8, 300-pound Campbell immediately becomes Baltimore’s top pass rusher and has registered 6 1/2 or more sacks in four straight seasons and at least five quarterback takedowns in each of the last 11 years. Pro Football Focus graded him as the second-best edge defender in the NFL and its best run defender of 2019, speaking to his all-around skill in the trenches. In 16 starts last season, Campbell collected 6 1/2 sacks, 56 tackles, and one pass breakup while registering 71 total pressures by PFF’s count.
Campbell has recorded 88 sacks, 696 tackles, 14 forced fumbles, and 48 pass breakups over a 12-year career in which he’s missed only six total games.
Playing extensively as both an interior lineman and edge defender over the years, Campbell will give defensive coordinator Wink Martindale plenty of flexibility to use different looks along the defensive line. Campbell will likely line up as a 5-technique defensive end in the Ravens’ 3-4 “base” defense, but he’ll move all over the place in other packages, which could give nightmares to opposing offensive lines trying to minimize his impact. His presence could also allow the Baltimore pass rush to rely less on numbers than it did in 2019 when the defense blitzed a league-high 54.9 percent of the time, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Relying heavily on that blitzing as well as a top-notch secondary to finish fourth in Football Outsiders’ defensive efficiency last season, the Ravens ranked 21st in the NFL with 37 sacks last season.
DE Calais Campbell to the #Ravens —
• Scheme fit in both base/sub fronts
• Physical play style + sack production
• Interior matchups on passing downs
• 1-on-1s + twist stunts at DT @NFLMatchup pic.twitter.com/sOSJ8dMXsR
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 15, 2020
It’s been a long time since the Ravens have had a talent of Campbell’s size and skill set with the best comparison perhaps being former defensive end Trevor Pryce, who piled up 13 sacks in his first year with Baltimore in 2006 and amassed 26 in parts of five seasons. Pryce was three years younger when he signed with the Ravens, but Campbell is playing at a higher level, arguably even better in his 30s than he was over his first nine seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. The 2008 second-round pick from Miami will turn 34 on Sept. 1.
Campbell’s value goes beyond what he brings to the field as he received the 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year award for his community work and is one of the most respected players around the league. His leadership qualities will be welcomed by a young team that lost eight-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda to retirement last week.
Now on the hook for a significant financial obligation to Campbell after committing just under $16 million with the franchise tag for Pro Bowl outside linebacker Matthew Judon, the Ravens could face some tough choices related to a suddenly tight salary cap. They still must decide on their $6 million 2020 option for veteran defensive back Brandon Carr in the coming days and could now feel more urgency to either work out a long-term contract with Judon or trade him rather than allowing the 27-year-old to play for the tag amount for 2020.
The deal will be viewed as another massive win for DeCosta as he will trade the 2020 fifth-round pick acquired from Minnesota last summer for kicker Kaare Vedvik, who faltered with the Vikings and was waived weeks later. This trade coupled with the deal for Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters last October means DeCosta essentially swapped Vedvik, inside linebacker Kenny Young, and his original 2020 fifth-round pick for two established Pro Bowl defensive talents.