Arizona Cardinals Free Agent Preview: Calais Campbell

Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /
Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

Calais Campbell has been a great player and fan favorite, but now he’s a free agent

A fair argument could be made that Calais Campbell is the most valuable player on the Arizona Cardinals. Since his debut in 2006, he has established himself as a great player, a popular player with fans, and a team leader. In many ways, he’s unsung hero from the Cardinals recent success.

Arizona’s week 15 loss to the Saints at home was the final home game in 2016, and possibly the last game in Arizona for Campbell. If so, he went out in style. In that last game, he had one and a half sacks and a fumble recovery that he took 53 yards for a touchdown. If he’s saying goodbye, it was a tremendous one.

The Cardinals have some difficult decisions ahead of them, with more than a few key players entering free agency. Campbell is one of them. His last contract paid him an average of $11 million per year, and he figures to make at least that much this off-season.

Campbell will be 31 years old when the 2017 season starts, but has not slowed down as he’s entered his 30’s. This past season, he recorded eight sacks, 12 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, three recoveries, including the one for a score. He also intercepted a pass and knocked down six passes. He was a one-man wrecking crew, and a catalyst for much of the success the defense had last season.

More from Raising Zona

Thirty-one year old Michael Bennett, of the Seattle Seahawks, just signed a three-year deal for $31.5 million. Campbell’s deal will probably be in that neighborhood. There will be teams lining up to negotiate with him.

The Cardinals are going to have just under $40 million in cap space, not counting any other roster moves. They also have some big ticket players to re-sign, including Chandler Jones, Tony Jefferson, and valuable role players like Marcus Cooper and Jermaine Gresham. There might not be enough to go around.

The loss of Campbell would be a big blow to a defense that played pretty well overall in 2016. His contributions, both on and off the field, can’t easily be replaced. It’ll be a tough decision for Cardinals management, and fans hope the image of Campbell scoring that touchdown in week 15 isn’t the final image they’ll have of him.