While there are definitely still moves to be made, the bulk of the big free agents and trades in the NFL are behind us. Most stars have new teams, and some moves have definitely been bigger than others. Some have been smarter than others, too — the NFL is full of big-money signings that don’t work out, and huge trades that fall short of their intended impact.
We’re betting these moves won’t fall in those categories. Here are five of the best and sharpest moves of the NFL offseason so far.
5. Ravens trade for Calais Campbell
Campbell has a reputation as a quality teammate, not to mention an excellent pass-rusher. He had 31.5 sacks in three seasons with Jacksonville, and it’s an absolute coup for Baltimore to be able to land him in exchange for only a fifth-round pick. Campbell will solidify Baltimore’s defense and improve their pass rush. The acquisition was even more important now that the Michael Brockers signing fell through.
Yannick Ngakoue is remaining with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Calais Campbell is not.
The Jags franchise tagged Ngakoue prior to the deadline to franchise tag players. On Sunday, the Jags traded Campbell to the Baltimore Ravens for a 5th-round pick.
The two gave the Jags one of the better defensive lines/pass-rushing attacks in the league the last three seasons. Now they’re being separated, and Ngakoue is saying goodbye. He wished Campbell well via Twitter Sunday, calling Calais his “sack brother.”
— Yannick Ngakoue (@YannickNgakoue) March 15, 2020
Campbell had 31.5 sacks in three seasons with the Jags since signing with them in free agency three years ago. Ngakoue had 29.5 sacks in the same span.
The Jags have also traded Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye away from their talented defense over the last several months, and now Campbell is the latest to go.
The Baltimore Ravens have made a major addition to their defense ahead of free agency, as they have reached an agreement to acquire star defensive end Calais Campbell from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Campbell will be sent to Baltimore in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The 33-year-old is in the process of working out a contract extension with the Ravens.
Jaguars and Ravens have agreed to a trade in principle that would send Pro Bowl DE Calais Campbell to Baltimore for a 2020 fifth-round pick, per sources. Campbell will try to finalize an extension with Baltimore.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 15, 2020
Campbell appeared in all 16 games in each of the three seasons he was with the Jaguars, and he was one of the anchors of their defense. He had 6.5 sacks in 2019 and 31.5 in three years with the Jags.
The Jaguars recently placed the franchise tag on star defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue, though it is clear he wants out of Jacksonville. Trading Campbell is likely just the first of many significant changes for the Jaguars this offseason.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were called for a personal foul at a crucial moment during their game against the Houston Texans on Sunday, and the call was one that simply should not have been made.
Calais Campbell was hit with a 15-yard penalty for lowering his helmet and initiating contact with a runner. In addition to that call being one we rarely see made in the NFL, Campbell was not guilty of it. Replays show that he actually tackled Watson with his arm and did not initiate contact with his helmet at all.
Led with the helmet called on Calais Campbell here.
Come on, what are we even doing? pic.twitter.com/auhjk8tvFw
— Gordon McGuinness (@PFF_Gordon) November 3, 2019
The penalty gave the Texans a first down in Jacksonville territory, and they ended the drive with a field goal that made it a two-possession game. The officiating crew may have been making a concerted effort to protect Watson because of his nasty eye injury, but that was a terrible call on Campbell. The Jags have every right to be upset about it.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are looking to get back on track this season after a disastrous 2018, and they are hoping their new starting quarterback will help them accomplish that goal. According to veteran defensive tackle Calais Campbell, the 2019 Jags will go as far as Nick Foles can take them.
In an appearance on Ian Rapoport’s “RapSheet & Friends” podcast this week, Campbell made some comments that could be interpreted as putting a ton of pressure on Foles. Or, you could simply look at it as him having massive expectations for his new teammate.
“The thing I love about this year is it really comes down to Nick Foles,” Campbell told Rapoport, as transcribed by Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com. “He’s a guy who’s over 30, has a lot of experience, won a Super Bowl MVP, but really what he brings is that confidence. He’s a natural leader. When he breaks the team huddle at the end of practice, you can see guys really hear him and that’s so important. Obviously what he can do throwing the ball is great, but what he does for the actual overall team, giving us more confidence and belief.”
The Jaguars still had one of the best defenses in football last season, but they have had a Blake Bortles problem for several years. While they were able to overcome that two years ago en route to an appearance in the AFC Championship Game, things fell apart in 2018. Campbell said Foles’ presence changes the entire mindset of the team, which should make the defense even better as well.
“Our defense is incredible, and I feel like we’re going to play so much better trying to get him the ball because we know what he’ll do with it,” he said. “You hear him speak and it’s contagious.”
If Foles plays like he did with the Philadelphia Eagles over the past two seasons, he should be perfect for the Jags. Combine that with another star player who says he’s in a much better place heading into 2019, and Jacksonville has the potential to be one of the best teams in the AFC again.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were caught by surprise when standout linebacker Telvin Smith said he’d sit out the 2019 season, and one prominent player is still hoping that Smith will reconsider.
Defensive lineman Calais Campbell admitted Monday that he’s “holding out hope” that Smith will reverse his decision and return in time for the regular season.
Calais Campbell said he’s still “holding out hope” that Telvin Smith will be back with the team by the start of the season. #Jaguars
— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) June 3, 2019
Unless Campbell knows something the rest of us don’t, there isn’t really any reason to believe this may happen. Smith has been very clear in offering his reasoning for taking a year off, and did not sound like he was open to changing his mind when some questioned the decision. As it stands, there’s no reason for the Jaguars to proceed with much of a thought of getting him back.
Calais Campbell sent an awesome tweet welcoming the Jacksonville Jaguars’ newest member to the team.
The Jaguars drafted former Kentucky pass rusher Josh Allen No. 7 overall in Thursday’s NFL Draft. That led Campbell to send the following tweet:
— Calais Campbell (@Campbell93) April 26, 2019
Campbell has been with the Jags for two seasons and has racked up 25 sacks in those years. Allen had 17 sacks as a senior for Kentucky last season. Having Allen also getting after the quarterback is going to make Jacksonville’s defense even more fearsome.
Add in Nick Foles to help stabilize the quarterback position, and the Jags are looking like they’re in good shape for an improvement after last year’s 5-11 finish.