PHOENIX -- Veteran defensive end Calais Campbell, who has 99 career sacks, has reached an agreement on a one-year contract with the Falcons, according to a person familiar with the situation.
The deal was first reported by NFL Media.
The 2023 season will be the 16th for Campbell, a second-round pick of the Cardinals in 2008. The 6-foot-8, 300-pounder, who will turn 37 in September, had 5.5 sacks with the Ravens last season - a total which would have been a team-high for the Falcons in 2021 and second in 2022.
In Campbell, the Falcons gain a player with experience (208 career starts) and consistency (seven-time Pro Bowler who hasn’t had less than four sacks in a season but once since his rookie year). He’s also highly respected around the league for his community work, winning the 2019 Walter Payton Man of The Year award for his off-the-field excellence.
The Campbell signing is the latest move for a team looking to strengthen a unit which ranked 23rd in total defense and only had 21 sacks in 17 games. Defensive tackle David Onyemata, linebacker Kaden Ellis and safety Jessie Bates were signed during the first phase of free agency and defensive end Joe Gaziano, linebacker Tae Davis and cornerback Mike Hughes, a former first-round pick, have also recently joined the team.
After two seasons with 38 sacks in 34 games, it was reasonable to conclude that the Falcons planned to add to their edge rushers as they prepare for the 2023 season.
“We’re never going to pigeon hole ourselves and say we have to get this particular position,” Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said. “We want to continue to add good football players who are going to impact the team whatever position.”
The Falcons have selected three edge rushers in the past two drafts -- Ade Ogundeji, Arnold Ebikitie and DeAngelo Malone. The young players apparently now have someone to emulate in Campbell, who finished second in the 2017 defensive player of the year voting after a career-high 14.5 sacks for the Jaguars.
While not specifically speaking about Campbell, Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith have often spoke about players who have the right makeup and character to fit into their overall plan to help rebuild the team. Campbell’s excellence on and off the field appears to clearly fit that vision.
The Campbell signing might be the biggest move the franchise has made thus far this offseason as it continues year 3 of its rebuild under Fontenot and Smith. The team has been active in securing new personnel for its defense, including new coordinator Ryan Neilson.
“I’m extremely happy,” Smith said when asked about the franchise’s offseason. “We have a real (good) football staff and the way that we communicate, I feel like we are very fortunate to have unbelievable personnel evaluators on that side of the building.”
The personnel side and the coaching staff work hard to be coordinated.
“They do a great job communicating back and forth,” Smith said. “We’re in constant communications. Things come up all the time. We said this would be a different offseason and it has. We finally had some cap room. You don’t want to crazy and spend it all on three deals.”
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Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com