Cardinals ILB De’Vondre Campbell expects big things during prove-it deal
Admittedly discouraged with an underwhelming free agency market, linebacker De’Vondre Campbell did his research.
He knew the Arizona Cardinals wanted him, but after the team had signed tackle Jordan Phillips and outside linebacker Devon Kennard, maybe GM Steve Keim wasn’t so willing to giving him the pricy, long-term deal he sought.
Consider that Arizona might also have a shot to land a talented linebacker in the draft — Isaiah Simmons did end up falling to them — and maybe a sidekick to Jordan Hicks wasn’t the top priority.
But according to defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, Campbell came back to Arizona. He accepted a one-year, $6 million deal with a $1 million base salary and a $5 million signing bonus, according to Spotrac. His deal voids soon after the 2020 season.
“Campbell was our top guy in free agency that we thought we couldn’t get because his money was going to be so big,” Joseph said weeks back. “He came back to us and took a one-year deal just to prove himself.”
How that came to be says something good about the Cardinals, at least. As a free agent, Campbell spoke to former Atlanta Falcons teammates, including Cardinals cornerback Robert Alford, and was sold on the coaching staff and culture in Arizona.
“Being able to reach out to them and get their input on coaching staff, scheme, city … I was very confident from the reviews that I got,” Campbell said over a Zoom call Thursday. “They made me feel very comfortable that I was coming into a good situation, (with) a good coaching staff, and being able to compete at a high level for what we’re all in it for, a Super Bowl.”
Campbell, who played for the Atlanta Falcons from 2016-19, recorded a career-high 129 tackles last year (13th-most in the NFL). He added three forced fumbles and two interceptions.
Campbell believes he’s that versatile coverage linebacker — hello, opposing tight ends — who can also add physicality in the run game.
Even with Simmons also in the mix to earn snaps, Campbell said he’s not worried about getting plenty of action alongside the No. 8 pick and Hicks. And it wouldn’t surprise if all three of them see time on the field in certain situations.
Part of the reason Campbell felt comfortable joining Arizona was because of the on-paper talent and in how position coach Billy Davis, Joseph and head coach Kliff Kingsbury laid out his role.
“They made it very clear from Day 1, where it’s very clear what they’re asking of me,” Campbell said. “I’m very confident in myself and know what I’m capable of. I was just confident in what I can bring to the organization. I like the direction that the team is going. I’m confident in Kliff — I’ve had several conversations with him — and I just like the way things are headed.”
As a rookie in Atlanta, Campbell went to the Super Bowl and, if you remember, nearly took home the NFL’s championship before blowing a 25-point lead to the New England Patriots.
Like Hicks, the former Eagle who signed with the Cardinals as a free agent last offseason, Campbell sees parallels to his former team’s most recent postseason success story.
“(Alford and I) were talking about how there are very little weaknesses on our defense, if any at all,” he said. ” We have everything we need. The one thing I learned about playing on a Super Bowl-caliber team, it’s that it doesn’t matter how talented you are. You just have to have everyone clicking together.
“The most vivid thing I remember in our Super Bowl run my rookie year is how much fun we had as a team,” he said. “I’ve been on teams where nobody is really cool with each other, like, we all have a job to do and that’s it. It’s a job. That year, it was special because you had guys from different backgrounds, different upbringings, everybody clicking together. We were going on bowling trips once a week … we were doing stuff as a group. It just built our chemistry up that much more.”
Campbell said the Cardinals went through a full-defense video conference call Thursday for the first time.
“V.J. (Joseph), he’ll put a play and then he’ll go position by position and ask you what your responsibility is,” Campbell said. “If there’s adjustments within the play, he’ll be like, OK, you know your assignment: ‘What if this happens or what if that happens?’
“I think it went really well for us being all together for the first time and for me actually re-voicing everything I’ve learned over the last couple weeks back.”