By far the most difficult question the Arizona Cardinals had to answer this past offseason was that of whether or not to let Calais Campbell, who the team drafted in 2008, leave in free agency. It seemed like from the start Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim had resigned to letting Campbell walk, which especially seemed obvious after Bruce Arians noted the team had been preparing for a couple of years for Campbell’s departure.
Still, a lot of question marks were left behind in Campbell’s wake. Who would be the one(s) to step up on the defensive line with his absence? So far, the answer to that question is still yet to be found. Robert Nkemdiche has been in and out with injury. Rodney Gunter, another potential bounce-back candidate, has been invisible. Josh Mauro and Frostee Rucker and Olsen Pierre have all had good moments, but none of them will ever be able to match the consistency that Campbell brought.
If Keim were to have known this was going to be the case with Campbell leaving, would he have ponied up the $15 million per year contract the talented defensive end was seeking? Probably not.
Yes, Campbell has 10 sacks through his first seven games as a Jaguar, already a career high for a season. But who is to say he would’ve flourished that much in Arizona? The scheme is entirely different. The players around him, who can occupy more attention from offensive lines, are entirely different.
Even with hindsight 20/20 on our side, I think Arizona still made a wise decision. We are on the verge of a straight rebuild here in the desert, as much of the roster intact is aging and more youth needs to be brought in. Suffice it to say, Campbell may not have wanted to go through that rebuild and the Cardinals may not have wanted to waste his prime years while going through that process.
So congratulations to Calais for having such a fine year up to this point. He is a fantastic football player and I think I speak for most Cardinals fans when I wish him continued success (except for when they come to Glendale later this season).