The Falcons bolster the defense further with Calais Campbell

Michael RothsteinESPN staff writer2 minute reading

The Atlanta Falcons will sign defensive end Calais Campbell to a one-year deal, it was confirmed to ESPN on Wednesday, the latest move by the franchise to improve its defense.

After Atlanta’s season ended, Falcons coach Arthur Smith said the team needed to add to its defensive front. It already made a change at coordinator this season, replacing the retired Dean Pease with Ryan Nielsen. It also added safety Jesse Bates III, defensive end David Onimeda and linebacker Caden Ellis in the first days of free agency.

However, in Campbell, the Falcons add a veteran presence in the defensive line room and another player with pass-rushing experience next to defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. Campbell’s 5.5 sacks last season would have tied for second on the Falcons in 2022 and led the team in 2021.

In addition to Campbell, Jarrett, Onyemata and Ellis, defensive tackle Da’Quan Graham, senior linebacker Lorenzo Carter and outside linebackers Arnold Epichetti and DeAngelo Malone (drafted in the first three rounds last season), round out the Falcons’ pass-rushing corps. .

The Ravens had hoped to re-sign Lamar Jackson at a reduced salary this offseason after cutting Lamar Jackson on March 13 to get his $32.416 million non-exclusive rights tag under the salary cap. Baltimore created much-needed cap space for $7 million by cutting Campbell, who had the team’s fifth-highest cap figure ($9.44 million).

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

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Campbell is coming off a resurgent season, but has had some stamina issues recently, missing a total of nine games over the last three years. Unless the void is addressed in free agency or the draft, the Ravens could move Broderick Washington into Campbell’s starting spot.

One of the reasons for Campbell’s return was reaching 100 career sacks. He currently has 99 sacks, and admitted that the milestone at the end of the season is “not at the top of the list, but it’s something I really want.”

A second-round pick in 2008, Campbell has recorded 809 tackles and 237 quarterback hits while playing with the Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars and Ravens. He was named first-team All-Pro following the 2017 season, recording a team-best 14.5 sacks for the Jaguars and finishing second in Defensive Player of the Year voting.

Campbell is also recognized as one of the best players in the league. After this season, Campbell received the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, which recognizes those who demonstrate integrity and respect on the field. In 2019, he was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.

The NFL Network first reported that Campbell was signing with the Falcons.

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.

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