The player that the Arizona Cardinals should’ve retained
Last offseason’s free agent defection of the popular Calais Campbell could haunt the Arizona Cardinals for quite some time
The 2017 offseason was an especially tough one for the Arizona Cardinals’ decision-makers. The club’s free agent list seemed to be a mile long. The NFL’s salary cap prohibited general manager Steve Keim from retaining everyone, but one departure in particular hurt a bunch.
Arizona’s loss of Calais Campbell should go down as one of the worst player-defections in franchise history. Since being drafted in 2008, the 6’8″ defensive end had become a stalwart of the team. The thought of a player of Campbell’s stature donning a different uniform was almost unimaginable in the minds of fans.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what ended up happening. The Jacksonville Jaguars knew a good thing when they saw it, and inked Campbell to a four-year, $60 million contract. By the end of the ’17 campaign, the Jags’ new investment had payed off handsomely.
Campbell, now thriving in a 4-3 defensive alignment, had the best season of his career after fleeing the desert. His statistics were eye-popping. Adding to an already impressive resume, the former second-round draft pick tallied 67 tackles, three forced fumbles, three pass breakups and a whopping 14.5 sacks.
Perhaps playing in the Cardinals’ 3-4 defense for all of those years was not ideal for Campbell. Coincidentally, new defensive coordinator Al Holcomb is implementing his version of the 4-3 at this very moment. While Chandler Jones and Markus Golden are impressive as the bookends of the d-line, having a talent like Campbell added to the mix would’ve made it lethal.
Speaking of Jones, the extension that he signed last year probably made keeping Campbell around much more difficult. The 6’5″, 265 pounder was designated as Arizona’s franchise player, and ultimately received a five-year, $82.5 million deal from the organization. Jones responded to the front office’s generosity by registering a league-leading 17 sacks last season.
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If he really had to choose between the two, it would be hard to fault Keim for electing to keep Jones. Nevertheless, it’s tough to gaze at the 31-year old Campbell in those Jaguar threads. There are certain players who should’ve remained Cardinals forever, and Campbell just so happens to fit that bill.