Ravens' trade for Calais Campbell looks like an absolute steal

Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- This wasn’t the trade many anticipated the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars would make, but it’s one that could go down as the biggest steal in Ravens history.

Baltimore acquired Jacksonville defensive end Calais Campbell on Sunday for a 2020 fifth-round pick they got from Minnesota for Kaare Vedvik, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported. Basically, the Ravens added a five-time Pro Bowl defender and one of the NFL’s most consistent pass-rushers for a draft pick they received for a backup kicker who lasted three weeks with the Vikings.

The bigger splash, of course, would’ve been if Baltimore somehow pried away young edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue from Jacksonville, something for which many Ravens fans had hoped. But that shouldn’t diminish the Ravens filling a massive need with a massive game-wrecker in Campbell, who represents a better value and overall fit.

Last season, the Ravens had virtually no pass rush on the interior of the defensive line. Baltimore’s defensive linemen totaled four sacks in 2019, the fewest by any team.

So, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta called one of his best friends in the business, Jaguars counterpart Dave Caldwell. Baltimore allowed Jacksonville to unload $15 million in salary and got a monster in the middle in return.

When it’s a passing down in the AFC North, Baker Mayfield, Ben Roethlisberger and perhaps Joe Burrow will line up and see 6-foot-8, 300-pound Campbell staring back at them. Campbell is one of four players with at least 80 sacks and 30 batted passes over the past 10 seasons.

The last time the Ravens had someone with Campbell’s size, athleticism and proven production was Trevor Pryce. Since Pryce’s departure a decade ago, no Baltimore defensive lineman has totaled more than six sacks in a season.

How much respect does Campbell command? An hour after the news of the trade broke, Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley tweeted: “I smell a dynasty."

The biggest concerns with Campbell are his age and a decline in sacks production. Campbell will be 34 when the season starts, and his sacks have gone from 14.5 to 10.5 to 6.5 over the past three seasons.

But this is exactly the short-term deal you make for a big-name talent when you’re a team like the Ravens, who have quarterback Lamar Jackson under a rookie contract for a few more years.

Durability has been one of Campbell’s strengths, even in his 30s. He has started 90 consecutive games, and his 3,859 snaps is the seventh most by a defensive lineman over the past five seasons.

Campbell was effective last season, even though he recorded his fewest sacks since 2015. He ranked fourth in best pass rush win rate (16.4%) among players with 200-plus double-teams. The only others who fared better were Aaron Donald (23.5%), Grady Jarrett (21.3%) and Chris Jones (18.4%).

Upgrading the pass rush is Baltimore’s top priority this offseason. The Ravens managed a league-low nine sacks from their four-man rush in 2019, which is why defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale had to creatively manufacture pressure with the most blitzes in the NFL. Baltimore was blitzing defensive backs so frequently that cornerback Brandon Carr finished fourth on the team in quarterback hits.

The Ravens see Campbell complementing Jackson in a way. As DeCosta noted at the NFL combine, Jackson and the NFL’s highest-scoring offense repeatedly jumped out to big leads, which forced teams to go into catch-up mode and pass the ball. If the Ravens face similar scenarios in 2020, they can attack quarterbacks with Campbell in the middle, newly franchise-tagged Matthew Judon off the edge and a secondary with as much talent as any team in the league.

The addition of Campbell is an essential piece for Baltimore's front seven this offseason, but it's certainly not the last. The Ravens will look to find a starting middle linebacker, another edge rusher and interior defensive lineman through free agency, their eight draft picks or perhaps even another trade.

In his 14 months as GM, DeCosta has differentiated himself the most from Ozzie Newsome with his wheelings and dealings, taking more of a baseball mentally when it comes to acquiring and moving talent. DeCosta has made six player trades -- from sending Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco to the Broncos for a fourth-round pick to acquiring cornerback Marcus Peters from the Rams for a fifth-rounder and reserve linebacker Kenny Young -- and he has appeared to come out on top of all of them, including his latest one with Campbell.

There’s a possibility the Jaguars would’ve cut Campbell and Baltimore could’ve signed him in free agency. But it wasn’t worth the risk, especially not when the cost was a pick the Ravens got for a backup kicker.