Calais Campbell knew a trade was always possible…but even he was still shocked when it happened. That’s what the former Jacksonville Jaguar defensive lineman told Pat McAfee on Friday during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show.
Campbell, the five-time Pro-Bowler and Walter Payton Man of the Year, came to Jacksonville after nine seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. He came to the First Coast as an unrestricted free agent, inking a four-year, $60 million deal with the Jags instead of signing with his hometown Denver Broncos or resigning with the Arizona Cardinals, both of whom offered him deals.
During his three years as a Jaguar, he totaled 195 tackles, 21.5 sacks, seven passes defended, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one returned for a touchdowns.
He still had a year remaining on his contract when Jacksonville traded Campbell this past spring, in March, to the Baltimore Ravens. The Jaguars received a 2020 fifth-round pick in return, which they used to draft safety Daniel Thomas out of Auburn.
As Campbell told McAfee, the news he was being traded came as much of a shock to him as anyone.
“I didn’t know it was coming. Obviously I guess, it’s always a possibility and being the older person, I’ve seen it all so I’m never surprised but I was expecting to be in Jacksonville for, throughout the rest of my contract and maybe even longer. I thought maybe an extension would come before a trade would come. I was kinda got off guard but it happened to be one of the best teams in football so it was kinda a win-win situation.”
The Ravens, led by third-year quarterback and unanimous league MVP Lamar Jackson, are a team on the rise and on the precipice of a potentially special season. So although it was the Jaguars who made the decision to trade Campbell to Baltimore, the defensive end elected to honor the trade versus sabotage the deal.
“It was contingent on me signing a deal so I had to do an extension and it finally came together. So I guess I could have sabotaged it and went elsewhere but I was gonna get traded. There was like four or five teams that were supposedly interested. But Baltimore was the one the team had agreed to trade me to, contingent on a deal being signed. And that was a process…
“My agent was really, he was saying ‘we can probably get more money elsewhere. Are you sure you wanna take the less money to go to Baltimore?’ And I was like ‘yea man I’m getting old. And when you run those springs, I gotta be able to run those sprints with my mind thinking it’s gonna be worth something and I’m gonna be able to get that jewelry at the end of the year.’”
McAfee joked it was a deal he felt Campbell would “be rather happy about” given the Raves projections versus the Jaguars. A large reason for the perception—in addition to recent win/loss records—stems from a NFLPA report earlier this year, alerting players to the amount of grievances that had been filed against the Jaguars organization under personnel chief Tom Coughlin. As a result of this and other complaints, Coughlin was fired by team owner Shad Khan.
Former Jaguars and current Atlanta Falcons defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. along with the NFLPA, won a grievance which returned $700,000 to Fowler, citing improper fines. The players association followed that up with a league-wide memo to its members with an ominous warning. It read, in part:
"It should be noted that Jaguars players continue to be at odds with Jaguars management over their rights under the CBA far more than players on other clubs," the NFLPA said. "In the last two years, more than 25% of the grievances filed by players in the entire league have been filed against the Jaguars.
"You as players may want to consider this when you have a chance to select your next club.”
Calais Campbell was not only a part of the Jaguars during that time, but he is currently a member of the NFLPA Executive Committee. But he has a follow-up message to that memo for players heading to Jacksonville.
“It’s not as bad as it sounds from the outside.”
The crux of the NFLPA and players issue with the Jaguars was how fines were doled out. In the 2010 Collective Bargaining Agreement, maximum fine amounts were set for different violations. Most teams, as Campbell explained to McAfee, elected to levy them in stages. The Jaguars, under Coughlin, did not.
“What it came down to it is, the CBA allows you to be fined up to a certain point. Most teams, usually, like when I was in Arizona, Bruce Arians had like, your first time offense was $250. Second time it’d be like $1000. Third time, you’re fined to the max if it was the same thing. So whatever the CBA guidelines are for the max. Well Coach Coughlin, you know, he’s always the max right off the rim, it was the max from jump. But for the most part it was only a small percentage; I mean a lot of guys that got fined but most of it was repeat offenders, the same guys getting fined. And essentially, some of the stuff, you feel like it could’ve been borderline so you file a grievance to make sure.
“Because if I get fined, I’m always gonna file a grievance and try to make sure that it’s just and I’m gonna get my money back or at least some piece of it, always trying to, that’s just a normal thing. I never got fined,” he added laughing, before continuing, “I think it’s one of those things where just Tom Coughlin had that mentality of ‘the only way to discipline the guys is to take their money’ because you can’t run extra sprints. You’re not gonna have guys, you’re not gonna cut guys you need so you have to fine them so there was a couple of situations.”
It should be noted, the new CBA, passed March 15, 2020, specifically outlines a “progressive discipline” plan in which a first offense is 40% of the maximum, second 70% and so on.
Despite the black eye from the players association and most recent 6-10 record, Campbell looks back on his three years in Duval with a smile.
“The team, you saw 2017, we gelled and we had a monster year and the biggest thing that really hurt us is we lost some of our veteran presence. We lost Mercedes Lewis, we lost Poz [Paul Posluszny]. Those situations were monumental because you had—that’s probably 25 years experience between those two guys that just went out the door and you replace them with young guys and we already were a pretty young team and so you know we started experiencing some adversity, we didn’t handle it as good as we did in 2017 when we had that experience.
“But I feel like Jacksonville was a great place to play, I had a great time there.”
You can watch Calais Campbell's entire interview on The Pat McAfee Show below. His interview begins at the 1:06:50 mark and he immediately begins talking about his time and trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars.