2022 NFL Free Agency: LB — De’Vondre Campbell
One of the pleasant surprises of the 2021 season, Campbell elevated his game for his first-ever first-team All-Pro selection. The sixth-year pro set or tied several career-highs, including total tackles (146), solo tackles (102), QB hits (6), picks (2), and sacks (2).
The University of Minnesota product also allowed 6.8 yards per completion and a 74.9 passer rating when targeted, the best marks for him over the last four seasons. He also had an astounding 2.7% missed tackle rate, by far the lowest of any player last season who had over 100 tackles. Campbell was one of the biggest reasons why Green Bay ranked ninth overall in total defense, 10th in passing defense, and 11th against the run.
But what kind of market is out there for Campbell? According to PFF, he is considered their top off-the-ball LB available in free agency, as he finished the 2021 season with an 86.0 grade.
According to Spotrac, though, only seven of the top-20 highest-paid LBs are considered more off-the-ball players, rather than the coveted edge position.
So what type of money does Campbell get? Also, can the Packers afford him?’
Landing spot prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers
As much as it seems like Campbell would want to be back after his breakout debut in Green Bay, it’ll be hard to do so for a team that ranks 31st in the NFL in terms of salary cap. There’s some restructuring to be done, but with Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams’ deals taking top priority, it does not seem feasible that Green Bay can reset the market with three respective players on its roster.
It also doesn’t help that the Pack has two of the top paid LBs in the league on their team already with Za’Darius Smith ($16.5 average salary) and Preston Smith ($13 million average salary). And not to mention, Rashan Gary’s breakout ’21 campaign has to be lingering in GB’s mind on a deal in the future as well.
So for the sake of this exercise, let’s assume Campbell has to make moves to find a spot that can pay him. I like the Steelers in this case because they’ve got the cap space to work with ($24 million) and they have a need at LB.
Devin Bush Jr. seemed primed for superstardom as he shined during his rookie year in 2019. He then suffered an ACL tear five games into 2020, and he hasn’t looked the same since. But at the same time, it’s hard to give up on a guy who flashed so much potential from the start of his career, as well as him only being 23 years old.
So why not give him a steadying veteran presence that also takes pressure off of him in the LB group? Although Bush had a rough ’21 season, he did not get much help at inside backer with Joe Schobert (52.2 PFF grade). Bush and Campbell could be the type of LB tandem that resembles what Tampa Bay did with Devin White and Lavonte David to claim Super Bowl LV.
I believe Campbell could be in line for a deal in $17.5 million, which would slot him right behind the top standup backers in the game like Darius Leonard ($19.7 million), Fred Warner ($19.05 million), and Bobby Wagner ($18 million), as well as above C.J. Mosley ($17 million).
It’s fair to say Leonard, Warner and Wagner have been more consistent players, but Campbell has a clear case over Mosley. Since 2017, the former Golden Gopher has missed one game (Week 18 where several GB starters sat due to rest). Mosley, on the other hand, has only played in 18 games since signing his five-year, $85 million deal in 2019. So I predict that Campbell will take a four-year deal worth $70 million.