Cardinals GM Rod Graves assured fans that DE Calais Campbell would be back in Arizona next season. He wasn't kidding.
The Cardinals announced Friday that they have placed the "non-exclusive" franchise tag on Campbell, which means that he will be paid approximately $10.6 million in 2012. Meanwhile, the Cardinals can continue to try to negotiate a long-term contract with Campbell until July 16, and if any other team extends an offer to the free agent, Arizona would have a chance either to match the offer or would receive two first-round draft picks in compensation. Essentially, then, the franchise tag should assure Campbell's continued presence in a Cardinals uniform.
"We've made no secret of the high regard in which we hold Calais," Graves said. "To be clear, reaching a long-term deal that will keep Calais with the Cardinals for years to come remains our primary objective."
Campbell earned such high regard after recording six sacks or more in three consecutive seasons. He notched eight sacks, 72 tackles and 10 passes defensed in 2011 — all career-highs.
The way we see it
This was a move that was widely expected, with close observers believing that Campbell had a willingness to accept the tag and not turn it into a distraction, which eventually happened with former Cardinal Karlos Dansby. Campbell figures to be a defensive cornerstone who eventually will cut himself a long-term deal on a par with linemate Darnell Dockett, whose four-year contract extension before last season is worth $48 million. Campbell's excellence as a kick blocker should not be overlooked, and he has yet to reach his ceiling.
So what's the next free-agent move for the Cardinals? It's only a guess, but as the team waits to see what happens with Peyton Manning, its major focus might be on re-signing OT Levi Brown — who is due a big spike in his rookie contract that the Cardinals will never make good on — at a greatly reduced rate.