Source: Falcons further bolster defense with Calais Campbell

March 29, 2023, 8:39 AM

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

After Atlanta's season ended, Falcons coach Arthur Smith said the team needed to make additions to its defensive front. It already made a change in coordinator this offseason, replacing Dean Pees, who retired, with Ryan Nielsen. It also added safety Jessie Bates III, defensive tackle David Onyemata and linebacker Kaden Elliss in the first days of free agency.

In Campbell, though, 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 ranked second on the Falcons in 2022 and would have led the team in 2021.

In addition to Campbell, Jarrett, Onyemata and Elliss, defensive tackle  Ta'Quon Graham, veteran linebacker  Lorenzo Carter and outside linebackers  Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone (drafted in the top three rounds last season), round out the Falcons' pass-rushing group. 

The Ravens had hopes of re-signing Campbell at a reduced salary later this offseason after cutting him on March 13 to get quarterback  Lamar Jackson's $32.416 million nonexclusive franchise tag under the salary cap. Baltimore created $7 million in much-needed cap space by cutting Campbell, who had the fifth-highest cap figure ($9.44 million) on the team.

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

Campbell is coming off a resurgent season but has had some durability issues recently, missing a total of nine games over the past three years. The Ravens could move Broderick Washington into Campbell's starting spot if they don't address the void in free agency or the draft.

One of the reasons for Campbell to return is reaching 100 career sacks. He currently has 99 sacks and acknowledged at the end of the season that the milestone 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 selected first-team All-Pro after the 2017 season, when he registered a career-best 14.5 sacks for the Jaguars and finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting.

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

NFL Network first reported Campbell would be signing with the Falcons.

ESPN's Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.