The Baltimore Ravens have made their second move in less than two days to bring back a veteran leader on defense. Barely 24 hours after re-upping middle linebacker Josh Bynes, the Ravens have moved to secure the return of a key piece along their defensive line.
This six-time Pro Bowler briefly flirted with retirement during the offseason, but ultimately opted to return to the NFL for a 15th campaign. The Ravens made sure he’d play that season in Baltimore by handing Calais Campbell a new two-year deal, according to ESPN Insider Adam Schefter:
It means the Ravens have their leader back along a defensive line that has undergone some transition since the end of last season. Campbell will ensure the Baltimore defense stays stingy against the run, while still providing an invaluable pass-rushing presence on a sack-shy unit.
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Ravens Retaining Veteran Core on Defense
The decision to hand fresh terms to Campbell came on the heels of the Ravens welcoming back Bynes for another tour. His return was reported by Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic on Friday, April 8:
Both deals are proof the Ravens are content to continue trusting experience to lead the way on defense. Campbell is 35, three years older than 11-year pro Bynes.
There had been some talk about the Ravens getting younger across the front seven this offseason. Specifically, general manager Eric DeCosta spoke about the need to refresh the ranks along the line, back in February, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley:
So far, DeCosta has pivoted another way, with Campbell’s return following another Ravens-related comeback. The other involved 29-year-old nose tackle Michael Pierce coming back to Baltimore on a three-year deal following two years with the Minnesota Vikings.
Like Campbell, Pierce is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. Yet, both veterans remain productive players the Ravens can trust to still deliver the goods on Sundays.
The process evolved into a desire to return, an intention Campbell confirmed during an appearance on Sky Sports for Super Bowl LVI. Having Campbell officially back in the fold is an obvious boost for the Ravens, but DeCosta should still be looking toward the draft for some youthful reinforcements.
Ravens Can Still Add Youth Along the Front Seven
Putting Campbell and Pierce into the trenches means the Ravens will remain tough against the run. They allowed 1,436 yards on the ground last season, the fewest in the league.
Campbell, Pierce and a healthy again Derek Wolfe, who is recovering from hip surgery, will form a rugged front three for defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald:
Yet, there is still room for an infusion of youth. The Ravens haven’t brought back free agent Brandon Williams, 33, while his fellow nose tackle, Justin Ellis, followed former Ravens defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale to the New York Giants in free agency.
The Ravens can plug the gaps by drafting a lineman or two. A player like Georgia nose tackle Jordan Davis would be a steal with the 14th-overall pick.
There are also prospects like Connecticut’s Travis Jones, the type of big-bodied, space-eater the Ravens have traditionally stockpiled up front. Alternatively, Davis’ teammate with the Bulldogs, Devonte Wyatt, would give MacDonald the interior pass-rusher he still needs, despite Campbell’s 87 career sacks.
The Ravens only got to quarterbacks 34 times last season. There is an absence of blue-chip talent on the edges, but the line also needs to do more to collapse the pocket.
Having Campbell mentor an elite member from this year’s rookie class would be a smart way to ensure a gradual and successful transition up front.