Arizona Cardinals’ defensive end Calais Campbell is a free agent, and the odds are he will move on.
It was 2008, and Michael Bidwill was addressing a room full of business students, as part of a series of talks leading up to Super Bowl XLII. The focus of his talk was about the NFL’s efforts to grow the league’s popularity in Mexico.
As genuinely fascinating as that was, I was more interested in what he had to say about the direction of Cardinals. The team had just finished its first season under Coach Ken Whisenhunt with an 8-8 record, and there was optimism brewing among Cardinals fans.
During that talk, Bidwill pointed toward the Pittsburgh Steelers as an exemplar of effective team-building. That Steelers model involved a number of strategies, such as building through the draft and not chasing big-ticket free agents.
The thing that the Steelers were particularly known for, however, was a tendency to allow aging players to move on as free agents. Aside from a few exceptions, the Steelers did not typically offer large contracts to their free agents if they were beyond the age of 30.
If one considers the Cardinals’ track record since – particularly under General Manger Steve Keim – it seems that they have, indeed, adopted that strategy. Certainly Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer stand out as exceptions. Still, Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby, and Antonio Cromartie are but a few aging players with whom the Cardinals parted ways. Each of these players were either cut or not offered competitive contracts as free agents after age 30.
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And now we come to 30-year-old Cardinals free agent, Calais Campbell.
Campbell has been, without question, one of the Cardinals’ best players during his tenure in the Grand Canyon State. Beyond that, his character has been vital to establishing the kind of locker-room culture that allowed the team to confidently take a risk on Tyrann Mathieu.
With this in mind, it would be reasonable to think that Campbell might be one of those exceptions. A player whom the Cardinals re-sign after age 30, à la Larry Fitzgerald. Unfortunately, the evidence does not suggest this is the case.
The Cardinals have made it abundantly clear that they intend to resign free agent pass rusher Chandler Jones, with Coach Bruce Arians going so far as to indicate they would use the franchise tag on Jones, if necessary. No such endorsements have been uttered for Campbell.
It is likely that the Cardinals preference would be to have Campbell back next season. But not at the price he is going to command on the free agent market. General manager Steve Keim and company know what kind of contracts Campbell will be offered. If they intended to compete with other clubs for Campbell’s services, it seems we would have heard some indication of their intent.
Instead, the silence is deafening.