“It’s a process” said Campbell on January 9 when asked about his future in the NFL after a season-ending loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, “I haven’t been in this situation before, so I don’t know.”
Indeed, Campbell was last a free agent in 2017, when he signed a four-year, $60 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, per Spotrac. He was headed into a contract year in 2020 when he was dealt to the Ravens in a trade that widely considered a steal as Baltimore only gave up a fifth-rounder in return. Campbell then signed a one-year extension with the Ravens, spending the 2020 and 2021 seasons as one of Baltimore’s most consistent defenders.
But after coming into this season with high hopes – and on a mission to win his first career Super Bowl – Campbell has seen the Ravens crumble around him with injury after injury, with a once-promising season ending with a sobering six straight losses and an Achilles tear for star linebacker Tyus Bowser.
“I’d hate to end it this way, that’s for sure,” said Campbell, “I guess very few people get to win the Super Bowl and run off into the sunset.”
Campbell might not be at the height of his powers – he earned a 90.0 or better overall defensive grade from Pro Football Focus in four straight season from 2016-2019 – but he can still flat-out play. If Campbell does choose to return in the 2023 season, he’d certainly be welcome back in Baltimore, where he finished with the ninth-best PFF grade among all interior defenders in 2021 and anchored a Ravens defensive line that weathered absences from veterans Derek Wolfe and Brandon Williams.
Campbell Could Want One More Year
The six-time Pro Bowler didn’t offer a timeline for his retirement decision, but the Ravens’ stinging Week 18 loss to the Steelers may motivate him to stick around for another year.
Campbell was visibly emotional on the Ravens’ bench after the Steelers kicked a game-winning field goal in overtime.
“I would’ve loved to be celebrating and screaming and yelling,” Campbell explained, “When you have another team celebrating on your field, that’s painful, but I didn’t want to go inside. I wanted to sit there and just let it burn.”
But Campbell was also feeling emotional at the prospect of having played his last game with his fellow Ravens, and possibly his last game in the NFL.
“I was just taking a moment and showing appreciation to my teammates,” he continued, admitting that he started to tear up once the magnitude of the moment hit him.
Even if Campbell returns to the Ravens, the defense around him could look dramatically different, with veterans like Pernell McPhee and Brandon Williams unlikely to return next season.
“Knowing that it’s not going to be the same definitely makes it just that much harder,” Campbell said, “I was honored to have the privilege to suit up and compete with these guys in the locker room. It was definitely a pleasure.”
Ravens Fell Just Short of Reaching Playoffs
Even though the 2021 season is considered a disappointment, the Ravens were still very close to making the postseason. If Baltimore had beaten Pittsburgh, they would have only needed a victory by the New England Patriots over the Miami Dolphins to earn a playoff berth.
The Jaguars, Campbell’s former team, managed to pull off an upset of the Indianapolis Colts, while the Las Vegas Raiders controversially beat the Los Angeles Chargers.
But the Ravens were unable to reach the end zone against the Steelers, who converted multiple third downs in overtime on their way to a game-winning field goal.
“They made the plays, and we didn’t,” said Campbell, “Football is as simple as that. Whoever makes the plays in the biggest moments are going to win the game.”
Knowing that the Jaguars were beating the Colts made the Ravens’ loss
“sting a whole lot more,” admitted Campbell, who was keeping track of the AFC South matchup all game.
Campbell had previously said before Week 18 that he had texted a few of his former teammates in Jacksonville to request their help in getting the Ravens to the playoffs, per the Ravens’ Clifton Brown.