April 20, 2024

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The Falcons strengthen their defense with Calais Campbell

The Falcons strengthen their defense with Calais Campbell

Michael RothsteinESPN staff writer2 minutes to read

A source confirmed to ESPN on Wednesday that the Atlanta Falcons will sign defensive end Calais Campbell to a one-year deal, in the latest move by the franchise to modernize its defense.

After Atlanta’s season ended, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said the team needed to make additions to its defensive front. He actually made a coordinator change this off-season, replacing Dean Pace, who had retired, with Ryan Nielsen. She also added safety Jessie Bates III, defensive tackle David Onyemata and linebacker Kaden Elliss in the early days of free agency.

In Campbell, though, the Falcons are adding a veteran presence in the defensive line room and another experienced passing player alongside defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. Campbell’s 5.5 sacks last season would have ranked second on the Falcons in 2022 and would have led the team in 2021.

In addition to Campbell, Jarrett, Onimata and Ellis, defensive tackle Taquwon Graham, veteran linebacker Lorenzo Carter and outside linebackers Arnold Ibikiti and Deangelo Malone (who made the first three runs last season) round out the Falcons’ lineup. .

The Ravens were hoping to re-sign Campbell at a reduced salary later in the season after he was cut on March 13 for non-exclusive franchise sign Lamar Jackson worth $32.416 million under the salary cap. Baltimore created $7 million in much-needed cap space by cutting Campbell, who had the fifth highest ($9.44 million) on the team.

Campbell announced at the Super Bowl in February that he intended to return for his 16th season. At 36, he is the oldest active defensive lineman in the NFL.

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Campbell is coming off a rolling season, but he’s had some durability issues lately, missing a total of nine games over the past three years. The Ravens could move Broderick Washington to Campbell’s starting spot if they don’t address the free agency or draft void.

One of the reasons for Campbell’s return is that he has reached 100 career bags. He currently has 99 sacks and admitted at the end of the season that the feat “isn’t high on the list, but it’s something I really want.”

In Round 2 in 2008, Campbell recorded 809 tackles and 237 quarterback hits while playing for the Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Ravens. He was named first-team All-Pro after the 2017 season, when he recorded a career-best 14.5 sacks for the Jaguars and finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting.

Campbell has also been recognized as one of the finest players in the league. Following this season, Campbell was awarded the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, which honors those who display integrity and honor on the field. In 2019, he was named Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.

NFL Network first reported that Campbell would sign with the Falcons.

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.