INDIANAPOLIS — When defensive lineman Calais Campbell announced last month that he’d be returning for his 16th NFL season, it seemed likely that it’d be with the Ravens.

Campbell’s a team leader in Baltimore. He’s under contract through 2023. And the 36-year-old remains one of the NFL’s better interior defensive linemen, grading out as the league’s 16th-best player at that position last year, according to Pro Football Focus.

But with the Ravens facing a financial squeeze as they decide on quarterback Lamar Jackson’s future, executive vice president and general manager Eric DeCosta said at the NFL scouting combine Wednesday that Campbell’s future would be part of a “tough decision.” Campbell has a $9.4 million salary cap hit next season, the fifth highest among Ravens players currently under contract. To lower that hit in 2023, the Ravens and Campbell could agree to an extension contract. They could also trade or release Campbell, whose contract would then count just $2.4 million against the cap.

“It’s a shell game,” DeCosta said, referring to the Ravens’ offseason plans. “There’s agents here, and we’re talking with different people. It’s not necessarily Calais. It’s not necessarily other guys. But we’re always looking at: How can we get better? How can we build the best roster? Understanding that the salary cap is a real constraint. And so we’ve got to do what we think is best for the club. Those are tough decisions.”

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If Campbell doesn’t return to Baltimore, the Ravens’ defensive line would likely lean on Justin Madubuike, who’s entering the final year of his rookie contract, and Michael Pierce, who missed most of the past season with a torn biceps and is another potential salary cap casualty. Also returning are Broderick Washington, Travis Jones and Brent Urban, who helped bolster a run defense that finished No. 7 overall in leaguewide efficiency, according to Football Outsiders.

Campbell is a sack away from 100 career sacks. If he reaches the milestone next season, it might not be with the Ravens.

“Every season, that new league year opens up, you know that you’re going to take on some water and you’re going to have to make some tough choices about the team because we’re not just trying to win this year,” DeCosta said. “We’re trying to win four years from now as well.”

Kyle Hamilton’s versatility

Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton emerged as one of the NFL’s top rookies last season, flashing his ability as a slot defender who could blitz, stop the run, and hold up in coverage against wide receivers and tight ends alike.

But coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday that Hamilton is better suited elsewhere: as a traditional safety who can move around the defense, including the spots at which he shined in 2022.

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“We’re not going to be a defense that’s static,” Harbaugh said. “Our guys are going to be playing different positions, we’re going to disguise, we’re going to blitz. He’s capable of doing pretty much everything. He [Hamilton] covers tight ends really well. He even covered slot receivers pretty well this year, man coverage. That’s pretty unique for a safety. ... I just think it gives us great flexibility. It leaves room for a third or even fourth safety in the mix.”

With Hamilton, whom Harbaugh said underwent minor wrist surgery this offseason, poised to partner with safety Marcus Williams in the Ravens’ secondary, Chuck Clark’s days in Baltimore seem numbered.

Clark, a team leader, defensive signal-caller and durable starter, has a $6.7 million cap hit in 2023. If the Ravens trade or release him, they’d save $3.5 million in space. Backup Geno Stone proved his value as a part-time starter last season after Williams missed time with a wrist injury, and he can be re-signed on a team-friendly deal as a restricted free agent.


Jonas Shaffer is a Ravens beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun. Shaffer graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Silver Spring.

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