While not a shocking development, the Arizona Cardinals placed their franchise tag on talented defensive end Calais Campbell on Friday.
According to Darren Urban of the Cardinals' official website, Arizona tagged Campbell in part to continue working on a long-term contact that would keep the 25-year-old with the Cardinals for the foreseeable future.
Cardinals general manager Rod Graves had this to say via Urban:
We’ve made no secret of the high regard in which we hold Calais. To be clear, reaching a long-term deal that will keep Calais with the Cardinals for years to come remains our primary objective. This move today allows us the opportunity to continue working with Calais and his agent toward that goal and that’s exactly what we will do.
While some franchise-tag designations make you scratch your head, the Cardinals slapping theirs on Campbell isn't one of them. Since being drafted out of the University of Miami (FL) in 2008, Campbell has progressed into one of the NFL's best 3-4 defensive ends.
According to Pro Football Focus, Campbell was far-and-away the Cardinals' best defensive player in 2011. He finished the season with nine quarterback sacks (an impressive number for a five-technique in a 3-4 defense), plus nine quarterback hits and 29 pressures.
Overall, only the 49ers' Justin Smith recorded a higher grade among 3-4 defensive ends last season. Campbell tallied a league-high 47 "stops" (a number which records a tackle that constitutes a negative play for the offense) and 55 solo tackles overall.
At just 25 years old, Campbell would have sought a fortune on the open market. While the Cardinals gave him the "non-exclusive tag," which means a team can negotiate a deal with Campbell that the Cardinals would have the option to match, it appears as if Arizona will retain his services for at least 2012.
If a team did happen to agree on a deal with Campbell, and the Cardinals chose, for whatever reason, not to match it, Arizona would receive two first-round picks from that team. There are few NFL GMs who would risk that kind of monetary and draft capital risk.
Even if the Cardinals can't hammer home a long-term agreement with Campbell before next season, this was a no-brainer move.
You'd have to assume that Arizona will eventually find a way to get such an important part of their defense signed to a multi-year deal. The franchise tag in this situation could be the avenue in which the Cardinals get that done.