The Green Bay Packers are finally making a major investment at inside linebacker.
According to Bill Huber of Sports Illustrated, the Packers have agreed to terms on a five-year, $50 million contract with starting inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, locking him down for the long-term future before he could hit free agency.
Campbell, 28, had a breakout season for the Packers after signing a one-year, $2 million deal with them late in the 2021 offseason. He finished with 146 total tackles — seventh-most in the league — and was a big-play machine for the middle of Joe Barry’s defense, earning first-team All-Pro recognition for the first time in his career. Now, Campbell gets to remain a fixture for Green Bay’s defense for seasons to come and also get properly paid in the process.
The Packers will be adding to their salary-cap deficit with Campbell’s new deal, as he was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, his cap number will be about $5 million for the 2022 season, pushing the Packers to more than $22 million over the salary cap.
The Packers created more than $27 million in cap space earlier on Monday with the extension of Preston Smith and the releases of Za’Darius Smith and Billy Turner. More moves, however, will be necessary to get them under before the new league year officially begins at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 16.
The latest Packers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Packers newsletter here!
Will Packers Pursue More ILB Depth?
Bringing back Campbell for 2022 provides an excellent foundation for the middle of the Packers defense, but that doesn’t mean the team won’t explore adding another inside linebacker or two between now and the start of training camp in July.
Right now, the Packers’ inside linebacker room is a work in progress behind Campbell. Ty Summers and 2021 sixth-round pick Isaiah McDuffie are both under contract for next year. Krys Barnes — who is an exclusive rights free agents — will also most likely be retained given his experience in the system and overall solid ability over the past few seasons. Beyond the three of them, though, there’s not much in place for the Packers if they ever need a backup plan for Campbell.
One uninspired solution would be re-signing Oren Burks. The 2018 third-rounder hasn’t lived up to his potential as an inside linebacker, but he was one of their only bright spots on special teams last year and could offer the same type of value in 2022 as new coordinator Rick Bisaccia looks to rebuild the unit. Burks’ limited production also likely means he will have a limited free-agent market, potentially giving him the motive to stick around in Green Bay on a veteran-minimum deal.
A stronger approach could be the 2022 NFL draft. The Packers have selected at least one inside linebacker in each of the past four drafts, but they haven’t reached for one earlier than Day 3 since getting Burks in 2018. Maybe that changes in 2022. After all, the addition of a second- or third-round rookie could shore up the position nicely — and maybe even score the Packers an unexpected playmaker alongside Campbell.