Defensive lineman Calais Campbell will sign a four-year contract in Jacksonville.
Calais Campbell earned the franchise tag back in 2012 because the Cardinals were afraid of losing their up-and-coming defensive lineman, and eventually signed him to a long-term deal.
Five years later, the tag residing on teammate Chandler Jones and Campbell’s price soaring past what the Cardinals were willing to pay, Campbell is no longer a Cardinal.
After nine seasons, 541 tackles, 55 sacks, eight fumble recoveries, six blocked field goals, three interceptions, four seasons hosting the “Big Red Rage” radio show, countless community appearances, and a Super Bowl, Campbell departed the Cardinals Thursday, agreeing to a four-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, worth a reported $30 million in guarantees and with a total potential value of $60 million.
The Cardinals were expected to offer Campbell in the range of the contract of Seattle’s Michael Bennett – a little more
than $10 million a year.
Campbell told ESPN’s Josina Anderson he picked the Jaguars because of the addition of Tom Coughlin to the front office, recent draft classes and a “young and hungry defense.” The money could not have hurt.
But Campbell’s departure had been expected. The Cardinals wanted to retain Campbell, but their view of his future – Campbell will turn 31 Sept. 3, as the season gets underway – was toppled in a free-agent market flush with salary cap space where Campbell was arguably the best interior defensive lineman available.
Coach Bruce Arians and General Manager Steve Keim both acknowledged the probability of losing a Campbell at the Scouting combine last week. Campbell, knowing he too would probably be moving on late in the season, acknowledged it himself then.
“The only thing I guess I can really say is, if it is my last year in Arizona – and I hope it isn’t – but if it is my last year here, I want to go out on top, giving everything I have,” Campbell said.
“I feel like the guys want me here, but I know it’s a business and it depends and all that stuff.”
Campbell’s move means wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is the last remaining player left from the team’s 2008 Super
The Cardinals still could bring back defensive lineman Frostee Rucker, like Campbell another veteran voice in the locker room who is a free agent. As of now, the defensive line includes Josh Mauro, Corey Peters, Rodney Gunter, Ed Stinson, Xavier Williams, Olsen Pierre and Robert Nkemdiche.
The Cardinals drafted Nkemdiche in the first round of the 2016 draft in part because they saw the possibility of Campbell leaving as a free agent this year. It was under the same thought process that Campbell was drafted in 2008, knowing starter Antonio Smith would likely leave as a free agent after the 2008 season. Smith did, and Campbell moved into the starting lineup. He never left.
A fan favorite, Campbell and his gravelly voice served as a team spokesman often as he weathered the team’s dip after their back-to-back division titles his first two years to the decline to Arians’ arrival and team resurgence. On the field, he was a stout anchor against the run and teamed well with Jones to frequently overload an opposing offensive line.
It leaves a hole the Cards will have to work to fill, likely with their in-house candidates.
“Hopefully we’re prepared for it,” Arians said last week about potentially losing Campbell. “We knew it could be coming.”