The Green Bay Packers have a massive dark cloud hanging over their head. Yet, instead of caving in and focusing solely on that issue, Brian Gutekunst and the rest of the front office have kept their foot on the accelerator in multiple areas.
Most recently, the Packers brought in veteran linebacker De’Vondre Campbell. After his visit to Green Bay, the Packers are expected to sign the durable inside backer to a deal. While inside linebacker remains a question for the Packers with plenty of options to sift through, Campbell brings something to the table that the others don’t have; experience.
It’s something you can’t teach, and Campbell has plenty of it. Compared to the other inside linebackers on the Packers roster, he has tons of it. This isn’t to suggest Green Bay was or is doomed at the position, there’s some legitimate talent within the youthful bunch, but it’s nice to have an older presence in the room.
Christian Kirksey was expected to provide that grizzled leadership last year at the inside backer spot for Green Bay. But he was constantly bitten by the injury bug like he has been the last three years of his career.
That isn’t a problem for Campbell, or at least it hasn’t been. The former Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals ILB has played in all 16 games in four of his five years in the league, including four straight seasons. Last year in Arizona, Campbell started all 16 games racking up 99 combined tackles to go along with seven tackles for loss and two sacks. Green Bay may have found a diamond in the rough.
There’s reason to be giddy over Krys Barnes and the potential with Kamal Martin when scanning over the rest of the depth at the position. However, expectations need to be tempered for a couple of reasons.
One, both are entering just their second season in the NFL. Two, neither were a coveted, can’t-miss draft pick. Martin was a fifth-round selection, and Barnes wasn’t even drafted before bursting onto the scene last year. But, again, this doesn’t mean they won’t develop into studs, just that usually fifth-round picks or later entering their second year are still developing large parts of their game in most cases and aren’t final products.
Elsewhere, the Packers used a sixth-round selection in last year’s draft on Isaiah McDuffie out of Boston College to help add another face to the ILB room. In addition, Ty Summers is back, a seventh-round pick in 2019. As is Oren Burks, a third-round pick in 2018 who has never reached his potential.
Let that dynamic sink in. That’s five other inside linebackers the Packers have that were all drafted either in 2018 or after that. And the lone 2018 pick, the “elder-statesmen” of the group in Burks, has started just four games in three years with a combined 56 tackles.
Campbell has bounced around but has been so consistent in his five seasons in the league. His lowest tackle output in the last four years is 92 combined in his second season back in 2017. Campbell isn’t going to blow you away with his speed or wow anyone with his athleticism, but he’s a super durable and consistent ILB who should be a great boost for Green Bay.
It will be interesting to see where Campbell gets plugged in. This signing has to be put into perspective. It’s almost the middle of June, and nobody had picked up Campbell yet. The Packers are taking a flyer on a guy who was a free agent for an extended period of time, meaning most teams had passed on him. Because of this, it’s hard to project how he’ll play.
I don’t believe many would be shocked if he’s starting Week 1. He’s the oldest of the bunch but still just entering his age-28 season. He had a rock-solid year with the Cardinals in 2020, and it would give some of the younger ILBs more time to develop if he starts.
But nobody would be shocked if Campbell doesn’t make it out of training camp. The reality is that Campbell made it to June without being signed. If he were an overly coveted name, he would have been scooped up well before this point.
There is reason for optimism with this signing. Even if it doesn’t work out, the terms of the deal weren’t some huge investment. It was a wise move that could have a nice payout for the Packers if Campbell can come in and establish himself and do what he’s done throughout his career. The trickle-down effect of what he can provide the younger ILBs with some words of wisdom certainly won’t hurt either.