Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell comes in at No. 16 on the Pro Football Network Top 50 2022 NFL Free Agents after a breakout season for the Green Bay Packers. Campbell should cash in after being largely an afterthought in the last two free agency cycles. We’ll break down potential Campbell landing spots and contract implications, and review his 2021 stats — what will the market look like for him?
De’Vondre Campbell: Free Agency Overview
Campbell, a former fourth-round pick, signed a series of one-year prove-it deals after leaving the Atlanta Falcons following the 2019 season. Expect that to change in 2022. He’s at the top of his game, and teams are armed with cap space in a way they were not a year ago.
Campbell, 28, has appeared in 91 games as a pro, starting 86. He has 608 tackles (31 for loss), 24 passes defensed, 9.5 sacks, and 8 forced fumbles in his six-year NFL career.
Recapping Campbell’s 2021 season
Campbell was probably the best off-ball linebacker in football in 2021. Campbell set or tied career highs in tackles (146), quarterback hits (6), interceptions (2), sacks (2), and fumble recoveries (1). Campbell’s advanced stats were also excellent. He allowed just 4.9 yards per target and a lone passing touchdown for a passer rating against of 74.9.
A big reason why Campbell — the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Month in December — was so effective in coverage? He missed just 4 tackles all season. If he got his hands on a receiver, they almost always went down. Voters rewarded that marvelous body of work by naming Campbell first-team All-Pro.
Campbell’s contract estimate and salary cap implications
Campbell picked a perfect time to have his best season. According to Spotrac, Campbell enters free agency with a market value of three years, $18.9 million — which would make him the NFL’s 15th highest-paid inside linebacker in terms of AAV ($6.3 million). Campbell’s earning power would be even higher if teams valued linebackers in a way they did in the past. Nickel is now base for most of the NFL, but Campbell’s ability to cover makes him more than a two-down player.
Whatever contract he signs will be the richest of his career. He has earned just $12.8 million in his first six NFL seasons. The Packers got value out of Campbell in 2021. They won’t get the same sweetheart deal in 2022. As they decide how to dig out from underneath a -$48M salary cap balance, Campbell could ultimately prove to be too expensive to keep.
Possible landing spots for Campbell
The Packers are built to win right now, and despite their ugly balance sheet, if they are determined to keep Campbell, they probably could. But they probably won’t be his best offer. His versatility could make him an attractive option to several teams that use exotic fronts, but he could thrive in either 4-3 or 3-4.
Campbell would be a perfect fit in Bill Belichick’s Patriots defense, although New England isn’t exactly flush with cash either. The Seahawks have the cash ($36.8 million) and could have the need if they move on from Bobby Wagner. The Titans have a hole at linebacker with Jayon Brown set to become a free agent. The Jets and Lions also make a fair amount of sense.
What they’re saying about Campbell
“That was awesome. Those are the type of moments you live for as a coach. To see someone who works so hard at his craft, who has added so much to this team, not only on the field, that’s obviously for everybody to see, but what he brings to our locker room, just to our mentality, not only our defense but our entire football team. He’s been a big pickup for us. He’s a big reason as to why we’ve had the year we’ve had defensively.” — Packers coach Matt LaFleur, after Campbell was named first-team All-Pro following the 2021 regular season
Listen to the PFN Dolphins Podcast
Listen to the PFN Dolphins Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Dolphins Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms. Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Dolphins Podcast on our NFL YouTube channel.