All-Pro LB De’Vondre Campbell is Packers’ priority in free agency

The Green Bay Packers are strapped by the salary cap and know they can’t bring back everyone, but re-signing linebacker De’Vondre Campbell looks like the team’s top priority as the new league year approaches.

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Packers are “willing to pay” and “intend to do as much as possible to keep” Campbell, a first-team All-Pro in 2021.

But if Campbell is the priority, other in-house free agents are expected to depart. Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and cornerback Rasul Douglas will both to get to the open market where they are expected to find deals more lucrative than the Packers can offer.

Why Campbell over Douglas on defense? For starters, the Packers have Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes at cornerback, lessening the need to return Douglas, who broke out with a team-high five interceptions in 2021. And Campbell’s incredible first season in Green Bay finally solved the Packers’ perpetual problem at inside linebacker.

He finished the 2021 season with the top overall grade among full-time off-the-ball linebackers at Pro Football Focus. The former Falcon and Cardinal proved capable of making plays against the run, covering in the passing game and both rushing the quarterback and creating impact plays late in games.

Per Silverstein, the Packers will “try to sign Campbell first.”

Valdes-Scanting is a speedy, 27-year-old deep threat who could command $10 million or more per year on the open market. Teams are always looking for cornerback help, so Douglas will likely get a big bump in pay after making so many big plays over the final two months of the 2021 season.

Of course, there’s also the possibility of Campbell reaching the market and finding a deal the Packers can’t match. Campbell turns 29 in July and may not have another great opportunity to cash in as a free agent, and he’ll want to maximize his next contract after playing last season on a cheap one-year deal. But he’ll also understand the value of staying in Green Bay with Joe Barry, who helped unleash his full potential as an inside linebacker last season, and Aaron Rodgers, the four-time MVP who keeps the Packers among the top contenders entering 2022. A competing multi-year deal in Green Bay may mean more to Campbell than getting the absolute most money elsewhere.

The new league year starts in four days, and the Packers are still trying to become cap compliant. The team needs to shed over $40 million in cap commitments before Wednesday afternoon. More will be required to sign a player like Campbell, but the All-Pro linebacker appears to be at the top of the Packers’ priority list with the start of free agency looming.


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