Much of the AFC North has been focused on replenishing their defensive lines. The Cincinnati Bengals, for example, lost on Andrew Billings, but upgraded with D.J. Reader. The Cleveland Browns, meanwhile, have their starters, but bolstered their depth with Billings and Adrian Clayborn.
Arguably the most aggressive team has been the Baltimore Ravens, whose highlight move was the acquisition of All-Pro Calais Campbell, trading for the 33-year-old defensive end by giving up a fifth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars. They also added Derek Wolfe after a deal with Michael Brockers fell through, though they also lost Michael Pierce and traded Chris Wormley.
As part of the trade for Campbell, whom the Jaguars were looking to move, the Ravens game him a new two-year contract (as opposed to an extension) worth $25 million. He told reporters that he took less to go to Baltimore because he wanted to play for a winner, and that he had other options for trading partners where his agent was confident he could have made more money.
But he also has another mission in mind. He wants to prove to the league that he is as good as he has ever been, and that a defensive player can still play at a high level into his 30s, even his mid-30s. Only Steve McLendon, 34, is currently older than him among defensive linemen under contract.
“I can still do everything I want to do, and I can come away or do something in a game situation that nobody does”, he told reporters. “That’s when I’ll start worrying, when I can’t do what I want to do. But as of now, I did trim my body up to make sure that I can have control over my body and do what I want to do”.
“I just felt like mentally, though, I’m so much more advanced than I have been in the past, and I think your prime is when you have the athleticism to take over a game, and the mentality to take over a game and the understanding of how to do it both at a high level”, he added. “So, for me, my mindset has never been better; my understanding of the game and my matchup and how to win is at an all-time high, and my body can still do it”.
Campbell’s sack total dipped to six and a half last season despite not missing any games, after having put up 25 sacks over the course of the previous two seasons. However, his quarterback hit totals show that he remained a frequent presence in the backfield.
The Ravens only got four sacks from their defensive line last season, one of the reasons that they put a priority on getting some turnover at the position this year. Campbell should certainly help their front line get some heat on opposing quarterbacks, even at 33.