Detroit Lions eyeing Calais Campbell in free agency: ‘We’re not the only one who’s on him’

Detroit Free Press

PHOENIX — The first wave of free agency is over, but the Detroit Lions aren’t done adding big-ticket items to their defense yet.

Lions coach Dan Campbell acknowledged at the NFL’s annual spring meeting Tuesday the team is interested in signing veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell.

Campbell, 36, spent the past three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, totalling 11 sacks in 40 games. The Ravens released Campbell before the start of free agency this month.

“You’re talking about a lot of respect for a big man,” Campbell said. “Oh my gosh. I just keep watching (film), I’m like, ‘Man, there’s no way he can feel good.’ That body cannot feel good, but it looks like it feels good because he just, he is a force to be reckoned with. And you put him in a closed end (role), you’re not running over there. He can rush as the three-technique still on third down. He just, man, he’s got length, he’s got size, he’s still quick, so we’ll see. We’ll see. We’re not the only one who’s on him.”

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Campbell made free agent visits to the Atlanta Falcons and his old team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, last week, and reportedly has visits upcoming with the Lions, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.

A six-time Pro Bowler with 99 career sacks, Campbell would fill arguably the Lions’ biggest need for a pass-rushing interior lineman. He had 5.5 sacks last season for the Ravens, more than every Lion but Aidan Hutchinson (9.5 sacks) and James Houston (eight).

The Lions, who had the NFL’s last-ranked defense last season, added three potential starters for their secondary (Cam Sutton, Emanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson) in free agency but have done little to address a front seven that allowed 5.2 yards per carry in 2022.

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Campbell said those upgrades in the secondary, plus natural growth by young players like Hutchinson, Houston, Alim McNeill, Malcolm Rodriguez and Derrick Barnes should make the Lions better defensively this fall.

“If you don’t do anything else defensively, we’re going to be better and we’re already working on scheme right now, man,” Campbell said. “(Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn is) back there cooking up all kinds of stuff because you have the flexibility to do some things now because of what we’ve done in the back end. So that alone, we’re going to be better and we haven’t even hit the draft yet. It gets me fired up. I love it.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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