Six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Calais Campbell has announced his intentions to return to the NFL in 2022. Campbell shot down reports of a potential retirement following Super Bowl Sunday. The 35-year-old Campbell remains an effective presence across the interior of the defensive line after recording 49 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hits last year in 14 starts with the Baltimore Ravens. Campbell is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March, and next season will represent his 15th professional campaign. The Ravens will undeniably maintain interest in retaining Campbell's services. Campbell's best and most dominant days may be behind him, but he's still an adequate defensive lineman with the ability to improve an NFL franchise in the trenches. Campbell's effective play when paired with his strong leadership skills should make him a sought-after, affordable free agent in March. We've identified three fits for Campbell via free agency should the Ravens fail to re-sign him.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERSBuccaneers general manager Jason Licht served as Arizona's personnel executive when the Cardinals drafted Campbell in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Licht possesses an impressive resume as an NFL shot-caller, but his influence over Campbell's drafting undeniably remains one of the best decisions he's ever shared a hand in. Furthermore, Campbell would later play for current Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians from 2013-16 when the Super Bowl-winning coach took charge of the Cardinals. Arians' defensive coordinator was Todd Bowles throughout that timeframe, who finds himself in the same role alongside Arians in Tampa. Several other current Buccaneers coaches experienced the same crossover, a list that includes senior assistant Tom Moore and assistant head coach Harold Goodwin. The connections never end here. There isn't an NFL front office or coaching staff that's currently more familiar with Campbell's abilities than the Buccaneers are. Some may believe the Buccaneers wouldn't spend much time worrying about upgrading a fierce defensive line that already serves as one of the more dominant units across the NFL. A pair of crucial performers are set to reach free agency in Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul, however, and their futures hang in the balance. Campbell may be identified as a more affordable plan B should Suh decide to play elsewhere in 2022. Furthermore, the retirement of Tom Brady may force the Buccaneers to become even more reliant on their defensive production. Adding Campbell makes the Buccaneers deeper and beefier up front.
PITTSBURGH STEELERSCampbell will undeniably want to play for a postseason contender in his 15th professional season. Campbell is likely to possess a shortlist of honorable franchises he'd enjoy continuing his career with and we'd expect the Steelers to make an appearance on that shortlist. It's quite easy to envision Campbell playing for such a respected leader in Mike Tomlin. Should the Ravens undervalue Campbell in free agency, playing for the Steelers would allow him an opportunity to stick it to his former team. The Steelers could certainly use some upgrades defensively after allowing 361.1 yards per contest throughout 2021, a statistical fact that ranked them in the bottom 10 of that category. New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin previously served on Arizona's defensive coaching staff when Campbell entered the league and is undoubtedly familiar with Campbell’s skill set in the trenches. Adding Campbell via free agency would pair him with T.J. Watt, Cameron Hayward, and Alex Highsmith in a move that would give the Steelers one of the more feared defensive lines and pass-rushing groups in 2022.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERSNew head coach Josh McDaniels may be an offensive-minded head shot-caller, but McDaniels fully understands and values the merits of rostering a big-bodied defensive lineman that can do the dirty work up front while also getting after the quarterback in the passing game. McDaniels had a front-row seat to witnessing plenty of physical and haunting defensive linemen transform Bill Belichick's defense into a dominant unit in New England. New defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who spent plenty of time with McDaniels and Belichick in Foxboro, will share a similar vision. The Raiders currently possess an elite pass rusher in Maxx Crosby, and Yannick Ngakoue enjoyed a 10-sack season opposite him while screaming off the edge. General manager Dave Ziegler will surely look to upgrade their group of interior defensive linemen, and changes are certainly coming as Johnathan Hankins, Quinton Jefferson, Gerald McCoy, and Darius Philon are all set to reach free agency in March. The Raiders will make changes at the defensive tackle position, and recruiting Campbell to help further unlock Crosby and Ngakoue could be in the cards.
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