One of the Arizona Cardinals’ many free agents this offseason is linebacker De’Vondre Campbell. Will he be back in 2021?
Campbell signed as a free agent last offseason and was truly a godsend to start the season. He really changed the performance of the defense at inside linebacker and was a significant upgrade over Joe Walker and Haason Reddick, who played the position in 2019.
He was all over the field. He made plays in the run game and was solid in coverage. He was great over the first half of the season, when he played almost every snap.
Over the second half of the year, he managed some minor injuries and the Cardinals tried to work in first-round pick Isaiah Simmons.
Campbell finished the season with 99 tackles, two sacks, seven tackles for loss, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.
Now he hits free agency again and the Cardinals likely will move on because they want Simmons to be an every-down player. Because of the way the Cardinals structured his contract last year with voiding years on the back end, his contract will carry a $4 million dead money charge against the salary cap.
He should be able to find a new team without many problems and perhaps a multi-year deal this time, although this offseason might makes it more difficult.
One possible option the Cardinals have is to re-sign him to play Jordan Hicks’ position and cut or trade Hicks. Such a move would open a spot in the lineup for Simmons and would increase the athleticism of the Mike inside linebacker position. Hicks counts $9.5 million against the salary cap and cutting him would save $3.5 million.
Of course, the question is whether Campbell can play Hicks’ position and whether the Cardinals would cut one of their defensive captains.
At 27 years old, Campbell should try and get a starting role and starting linebacker money. However, if he doesn’t find the right salary, if the Cardinals plan on using Simmons in many roles all over the field, Campbell could still have a role. The Cardinals will need a capable linebacker to be on the field when Simmons is at a different position. The price would have to be right, but it is a possibility.
However, the way things played out in last year’s draft, it would appear that Campbell was intended to be a one-year stopgap.
Campbell’s 2021 return: Unlikely
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