Why did Calais Campbell sign with the Atlanta Falcons?

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In recent years, the Falcons have been the laughingstock of the NFL. Dan Quinn’s cheesy motivational tactics ran dry when the club failed to get above .500 after a magical Super Bowl run and a subsequent playoff berth. There was a lack of accountability and even more flaws in the personnel decision-making. The culture suffered. But that all seems to be history as the team landed a highly sought-after free agent in Calais Campbell over multiple other teams, including a pair that made the postseason last year.

Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot took over, implementing their culture within Flowery Branch. Over the first two seasons, there have been relatively little returns — two 7-10 seasons. However, there has been improvement. The 2021 roster was inferior to the 2022 group but ended with the same record, so that has to be considered progress.

The confidence in the regime was polarizing. The message didn’t seem to resonate from the fan base’s perspective because the Falcons were so early in the process. It’s difficult to yield results early in rebuilding such a flawed culture. Fast forward to today, and we have tangible proof the work Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot are putting in is working.

Calais Campbell is a bit long in the tooth but has one of the more impressive resumés to show for it. He’s a three-time All-Pro, six-time Pro Bowler, and Defensive Player of the Year runner-up. There is one thing missing — a Super Bowl ring.

Many believed his free agent process would be dictated by joining a contender first and foremost. Calais Campbell decided to sign with the Falcons without even visiting the Bills and Jets. The 36-year-old doesn’t have many seasons left, but he’s still got enough left in the tank to contribute in a significant way; so why in Atlanta?

According to Tiffany Blackmon, Campbell opted for the Falcons because he “believes in what they are trying to do (and) feels like with this roster, they have a chance to surprise some people this season.”

The Falcons have spent a large chunk of their cap space and added impact players on all three levels of the defense. It’s going to be a much-improved team across the board, but the national media isn’t as bullish on Atlanta’s offseason as fans of the team. Clearly, the players also see the vision. That’s an important distinction from prior years that must be acknowledged.

Reeling in a high-profile free agent like Calais Campbell signals what the new regime is trying to implement is resonating. It’s encouraging. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit where credit is due. Arthur Blank played a major role in landing Campbell.

“It really came down to where I felt like I could have the biggest impact both on and off the field.” Campbell said, via Josina Anderson.

The 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year winner values the impact he can make on and off the field. And the Falcons owner has been at the forefront of philanthropic endeavors in the NFL since he bought the team. It’s what seeled the deal for Campbell, a 40-minute call with Blank, which was mostly about off-the-field topics.

This signing is going to pay dividends for the Falcons. Despite his age, Calais Campbell still has plenty left to offer and joins a dramatically improved defensive line that includes Grady Jarrett, David Onyemata, Ta’Quon Graham, and Eddie Goldman. He will provide real leadership for an otherwise young team too. But I think it’s more important as a culture signing. It sends out a beacon to other worthwhile free agents that Atlanta is a destination they should consider whereas the Falcons would normally disregarded. The Falcons are finally turning the corner, and this signing proves it.

Photographer: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire


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