Calais Campbell To Meet With Falcons

Linked again to retirement, Calais Campbell said earlier this offseason he will play a 16th NFL season. After the Ravens released the accomplished defensive lineman, he could need to find a fourth team.

The Falcons will display their interest via a free agent visit, Mike Garafolo of tweets. The Ravens have not closed the door on Campbell coming back at a reduced rate, but the former Cardinals and Jaguars defensive lineman will go forward with a Falcons meeting.

Campbell, who will turn 37 just before Week 1, spent the past three seasons with the Ravens and has continued to produce despite being one of the league’s oldest players. The 2008 second-rounder totaled 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for the Ravens last season, remaining a D-line regular. Campbell started all 14 games he played and has seen action on more than 60% of Baltimore’s defensive plays in each of the past two seasons.

The Jaguars’ Campbell signing in 2017 became one of the most impactful defensive free agency additions in recent years, with the former Cardinals starter/kick-blocking extraordinaire earning All-Pro honors — after a 14.5-sack season — and powering the Jags’ defense to the top of the league. Jacksonville gave New England a scare in that year’s AFC championship game, but the team steadily dismantled that “Sacksonville” defense. That effort led Campbell to Baltimore in 2020.

Campbell coming back for the 2023 season will move him further into rarefied air among defensive linemen. The durable Denver native is currently tied with Rams icon Merlin Olsen for eighth all time for starts by a defensive lineman (208). By starting just nine more games, Campbell can climb into the top five in NFL history at the position. He can pass Olsen, fellow Hall of Famers Alan Page and Carl Eller, along with Justin Smith and Kevin Carter, by making 12 starts this season. A 12-start 2023 would leave Campbell fourth in NFL annals. Campbell also has 99 career sacks; more seasons will drive an increasingly valid Hall of Fame case.

Atlanta has been busy in bolstering its defense this offseason. New DC Ryan Nielsen brought two Saints — defensive tackle David Onyemata and linebacker Kaden Elliss — with him to Georgia. Cornerback Mike Hughes joined high-priced safety Jessie Bates as secondary additions as well. And the team received word D-tackle Eddie Goldman will also be attempting a comeback. Goldman signed with the Falcons last summer but landed on their reserve/retired list soon after. The team has Grady Jarrett coming back for a ninth season anchoring its interior D-line as well.

Campbell has said he wants to land with a contender. Having played in Super Bowl XLIII (a Cardinals loss to the Steelers) and three conference championship games, that makes sense. The Falcons do not resemble a surefire contender presently, given their quarterback situation and sub-.500 showings in 2021 and ’22, but Arthur Smith and GM Terry Fontenot are going into their third years. The organization will be more committed to producing a winning team next season. Campbell would certainly be an interesting piece to this puzzle.

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