Free-agent scouting report: Cardinals DE Calais Campbell

Posted Feb. 23, 2012 @ 7:42 a.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

Updated Friday, March 2, 3:10 p.m. ET

This is the 10th in a series of scouting reports on key players who are expected to become free agents March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchised before then.

News: If Campbell had hit the open market, he would have been considered one of the most attractive defenders available in free agency. However, the team announced on March 2 that it will place the franchise tag on him — it will pay him around $10.6 million in 2012. Only 25 years old, Campbell has shown steady improvement, either leading or tying for the team lead in sacks each of the past three seasons, in addition to providing a valuable extra dimension with his dynamic kick-blocking ability (his three blocked field goals in 2011 tied for the league lead with fellow free-agent DE Red Bryant of the Seahawks). Daily team observers believe Campbell's level of play is now on a par with fellow DL Darnell Dockett, whose four-year contract extension before last season is worth $48 million. For parameter purposes, Campbell's agent, Ben Dogra, is likely taking a long look at the deals signed last summer by Atlanta DE Ray Edwards (five years, about $30 million) and Carolina DE Charles Johnson (six years, $72 million).

Notes: The tallest Cardinal at 6-8, 300 pounds, Campbell started all 16 games in 2011 and had career highs with 72 tackles, eight sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 11 passes defensed (the fourth-best total on the team), two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and the aforementioned three blocked field goals (five blocked FGs in his career). Campbell also was second on the team with 16 QB hits (according to coaches' film review), three fewer than Dockett.

Positives: Campbell's 2011 statistics attest to his disruptive ability on a number of fronts. Ends in a 3-4 system with double-digit sack potential are hard to find, but Campbell, an extremely hard worker with high expectations for himself, more than fills the bill, especially operating on the same line as Dockett, one of the league's most intimidating interior defenders. Campbell's great height and wingspan come in handy both as a kick blocker on special teams and as a consistent pass deflector, and daily team observers believe he is far from reaching his full potential. Campbell is also considered excellent in the locker room and in the community.

Negatives: Because of his height, Campbell struggles at times to stay low at the line of scrimmage and avoid being an easy target for blockers. Constant technique work on his leverage is required for him to overcome that flaw, which Campbell does more often than not.

Risk factor: While he would no doubt likely prefer a long-term deal, Campbell does not figure to resist being tagged, which is often the case with franchised players. By all accounts, Campbell is very enthusiastic about a defensive unit that made major strides under first-year coordinator Ray Horton. He really likes playing for Cardinals D-line coach Ron Aiken, and he and his family are very happy living in Arizona. As far as the Cardinals are concerned, there does not appear to be much risk in committing to a player who is projected as a key defensive cornerstone with his best years ahead of him — especially considering the current lack of talent behind Campbell on the depth chart.