The Baltimore Ravens and Calais Campbell appear to be on good terms following the 2021 season, though the defensive end’s future with the team remains clouded. If Campbell decides he wants to play for the Ravens this year, he more than deserves a spot on the roster.
After Campbell officially announced that he won’t be retiring, rumors arose over where he might play for the 2022 season. He’s set to be an unrestricted free agent, and while no deal has been struck yet with the Ravens, Campbell staying in Baltimore would ultimately benefit both parties.
In the past, Campbell has said nothing but good things about Baltimore, and vice versa.
Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta met with Campbell after the 2021 season to discuss his future and said this about the grizzled vet.
"“I really admire Calais as a leader [and] as a player. He still plays at a high level and has a great attitude. He’s great for the younger guys. I’m excited about some of the other guys we have, as well, that we think will make the next step.”"
DeCosta and the Ravens already know that their defensive line must get younger. When all your linemen are 30 years or older, playing at an elite level becomes an impossible task and once-reliable stalwarts become injury-prone liabilities.
Even at 35, Campbell proved he had plenty left in the tank last year, earning an 80.4 PFF grade that ranked eighth among all qualified interior defensive linemen in the league. His run-stop rate, which measures the success of stopped runs, trailed only Aaron Donald for the best at the position.
The Ravens should try to hold onto Calais Campbell for one more year
As one of PFF’s most underrated free agents, the six-time Pro Bowler has 14 seasons of experience under his belt, and his solid defensive play in recent years suggests Campbell isn’t as “washed” as many players his age tend to be.
Far past his prime, though, Campbell will no doubt want to ring-chase with a playoff-contender this year, which very well could be his last. It makes sense for him to stay in Baltimore with a crucial caveat: the team must limit his snaps.
Since joining the team in 2020, Campbell enjoyed a productive two years with the Ravens, starting 26 of 27 games with 77 combined tackles, 22 quarterback hits, and 5.5 sacks.
His snap counts have steadily decreased throughout the years except for this past season when Campbell played 64 percent of defensive snaps, a 13 percent uptick from 2020.
Campbell played more often than he should have due to an injured Derek Wolfe, and Baltimore had no one else to lean on during the season.
The Ravens can make no excuses for lack of depth this time around, as they have an entire offseason to rebuild their roster. Justin Madubuike should make a huge jump in Year 3 barring any injuries, and come April, the Ravens will likely select a defensive line prospect in the draft to pad the position group.
If Baltimore limits Campbell to playing, say, 50 percent of snaps in 2022, that would allow Campbell to maximize his efficiency on the field, give a younger, developmental player much-needed experience to grow into the position, and keep the Ravens competitive all season.
It’s a win-win. The Ravens don’t have to completely sacrifice expertise for youth, and Campbell gets another shot at the Super Bowl on a team primed to bounce back and regain dominance in the league.
After 2021, Calais Campbell has proven his value as a starting-caliber defensive end and a natural leader in the trenches. By balancing his savvy experience with a conservative injection of raw talent into the defensive line, the Ravens can get the best of both worlds.