During a time when teams across the NFL are negotiating to bring players aboard, the Baltimore Ravens are showing one of their more recognizable players on defense the door. At the start of the legal tampering period Monday, the team announced that it released veteran pass-rusher Calais Campbell.
Campbell was signed through the 2023 season, but the 36-year-old carried a $9.44 million salary cap hit for the upcoming campaign. By releasing him at this juncture, the team frees up $7 million in space.
While Campbell is now free to sign with any club across the NFL, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta did go out of his way to note that the team has not ruled out the possibility of bringing him back.
"Calais defines what it is to be a Raven," DeCosta said in a statement Monday. "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.
"While this is the worst part of the business, we have not closed the door on the possibility of him returning to our team in the future."
The Ravens acquired Campbell in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2020 offseason, and he has been with the club for the past three seasons. The six-time Pro Bowler has been a reliable piece along Baltimore's defensive line, positing double-digit quarterback hits in each of his three seasons with the organization. He is also coming off a 2022 season during which he piled up 5.5 sacks in just 14 games played (all starts).
Campbell initially entered the league as a second-round pick of the Cardinals in 2008 out of Miami. He spent the first nine years of his career in Arizona, where he blossomed into a top-tier pass rusher. In 2017, he inked a $60 million deal to join the Jaguars, and Jacksonville was where he put up some of his better statistical seasons, including a 14.5-sack campaign in 2017.
Even as he'll be 37 at the start of next season, Campbell is still going to be an attractive piece to several teams that need help bolstering their defensive line in 2023.
Campbell landing spots
Kanas City Chiefs
Whenever an aging veteran hits the market, they're going to be linked to the Chiefs. Aligning himself with Kansas City would give Campbell arguably the best chance at winning his first-ever Super Bowl. He still has good football in the tank, and it'd be fascinating to see how K.C. defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo would utilize him. It's also worth pointing out that there is a bit of a pass-rushing need here with the Chiefs releasing Frank Clark.
The Buccaneers are likely to be in a transition state following Tom Brady's retirement, so Tampa Bay may not be the most attractive destination for Campbell. That said, this is a team that is tight against the cap and has a number of defensive ends entering free agency, so Campbell could be a cost-effective option for them to fill some of those needs in the short term. Meanwhile, Bucs GM Jason Licht did work as a personnel executive with the Cardinals when Campbell was drafted by the team in 2008 and was in the front office in Arizona in 2012 and 2013, so there is familiarity here.
Carolina could be an interesting fit when you consider that defensive line coach Todd Wash was Campbell's defensive coordinator during his most productive days in Jacksonville with the Jaguars. In the three seasons Wash coached Campbell, the pass-rusher had 31.5 sacks.