Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell is expected to leave the only NFL team he’s known to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Reports Wednesday night said the nine-year veteran would likely become a Jaguar but then his hometown Denver Broncos entered the mix early Thursday.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported via Twitter that Campbell could take less money to go back to his birthplace of Denver.
A tweet from Josina Anderson of ESPN said Campbell wrote in a text, “Chose (Jaguars) because Tom Coughlin is a winner, they brought in two other big free agents and they also have been drafting well the last few years. They are a young and hungry defense that I want to lead.”
Campbell won’t be the only loss to the Cardinals’ defensive unit. Safety Tony Jefferson decided to sign with the Baltimore Ravens after four NFL seasons in the desert.
Arizona drafted Campbell with its second-round pick (50th overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft, and the defensive end spent the next nine seasons with the Cardinals, twice going to the Pro Bowl (2014-15) and twice earning Second-Team All-Pro honors (2014, 2016).
The 30-year-old, approaching what will be his third NFL contract, continued to produce in 2016, making 53 total tackles to go with eight sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one interception. That production had Pro Football Focus name Campbell as the second highest-graded interior defensive lineman this season.
And that ended up setting Campbell up for what looks to be another big payday — one the Cardinals weren’t willing to offer with other priorities in free agency.
The Cardinals entered March with safety Tony Jefferson, cornerback Marcus Cooper, safety D.J. Swearinger, tackle Frostee Rucker, and linebackers Alex Okafor, Kevin Minter and Sio Moore as free agents on the defensive side of the ball.
Additionally, the team used its franchise tag on linebacker Chandler Jones, a move that they had previously used on Campbell before he signed his last contract in 2012.
Campbell’s Cardinals career ends after he recorded 501 tackles, 56.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, eight fumble recovering and three interceptions in 138 career games with Arizona.
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