Calais Campbell pondered his options but didn’t waste much time following the 2021 NFL season to announce that he would be returning for in 2022. This means that he will be 36 by the the first snap of the year. While QBs can win Super Bowls well into middle age, the perpetually creeping reality of time is far less kind to some positions. But Calais Campbell continues to rip, swim, and bull rush his way through offensive linemen on an annual basis; even if the sack numbers have dipped, he is still a force as a pass rusher and a run stuffer.
Traditionally, Campbell lined up as a 3-4 end, playing most of his defensive snaps over tackle while occasionally shifting inside as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. However, during his three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he spent significantly more time lined up wide, rushing from outside. During this time he had his most prolific stretch as a pass rusher, totaling 31.5 sacks between 2017-2019. He returned to his more traditional role when he signed with the Ravens; he has continued to be impactful, however his sack numbers have declined considerably. Would this change with a shift in defensive style? How would he fit in Clint Hurtt’s defense relative to Baltimore/Jacksonville circa ‘18-19?
Hurtt has a stated affinity for 3-4 principles, but we should still expect to see some classic Pete Carroll hybrid concepts at play. This is good if the team does end up pursuing a versatile defensive linemen like Campbell; while he has traditionally been a 3-4 end, he played in the shadow of Gus Bradley in Jacksonville, where Todd Wash primarily liked to play out of a 4-3 base. The fact that this period saw Calais chalk up his most productive period as a pass rusher bodes well for the schematic fit. And with the illustrious century mark in view — he currently has 93.5 career sacks — he may have a bit of extra encouragement to pull out all the stops and make life hell for opposing signal callers with reckless abandon.
Of course, this may all just be wishful thinking; in fact, it almost certainly is, as Baltimore is reportedly looking to retain the services of one of the NFL’s wiliest veterans on the market, according to the official Baltimore Ravens team website. However, the Seattle Seahawks have made an annual tradition of signing low-investment/sneaky-upside veteran defensive linemen, and they have often done so with surprisingly good results. Calais Campbell is a versatile player who can line up inside and out, and his uniquely imposing frame makes for a challenging matchup for any offensive lineman. Could this be the year it happens? Probably not. But that won’t stop me from hoping.