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NFL free agency: Calais Campbell chooses Falcons over Lions

The Detroit Lions were interested in signing veteran defensive tackle Calais Campbell, but the free agent chose the Atlanta Falcons instead.

Baltimore Ravens v New Orleans Saints Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

According to a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, star defensive lineman Calais Campbell has chosen to sign a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons.

This is significant because on Tuesday, Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell confirmed that the team was interested in signing Campbell this free agency.

“Look, we turn the tape on, man, and I’ll tell you what, you talk about a lot of respect for a big man,” Campbell said. “Oh, my gosh. I just keep watching it and I’m like, there’s no way he can feel good, that body can not feel good. But it looks like it feels good because he’s just a force to be reckoned with. You put him in a closed end, you’re not running over there. He can rush as a 3-technique, still, on third down. Man, he’s got length, he’s got size, he’s still quick. We’ll see. We’re not the only one who is on him.”

While the Lions don’t have a lot of needs after an active start to free agency, defensive tackle remains a position that could use an upgrade. The Lions did re-sign Isaiah Buggs to a two-year deal, but general manager Brad Holmes openly admitted that his role was too big in 2022 and he would be more efficient if he was in a more complementary role. With no true additions to the room this offseason, the Lions will need to sign or draft a big man inside if they want to optimize Buggs’ playing time.

Campbell would have been an interesting fit. Though he’s 100 percent a culture guy—especially as a former Walter Payton Man of the Year Award recipient—he is turning 37 years old this season. Detroit could undoubtedly use more veteran leadership on the defensive side of the ball, and Campbell’s play was still at a high level last year, but this would have also just been a very short, temporary fix to something that needs a long-term solution. Still, if the Lions are planning to make a deep run in 2023, Campbell would’ve undoubtedly helped.

But Campbell was a popular free agent. The Jets, Bills, and Jaguars also pursued him, in addition to the Falcons and Lions.

Back to the drawing board.

UPDATE: If you’re wondering why Campbell chose the Falcons over other teams who are clearly closer to contending for a championship, NFL insider Josina Anderson has a quote from the man himself:

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