GREEN BAY, Wis. – After the draft, Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said he would be looking to add a veteran linebacker. He did just that by signing De’Vondre Campbell.
With a No. 59 jersey draped over his shoulder, Campbell arrived early in Wednesday’s practice and hugged his new boss, position coach Kirk Olivadotti. Shortly thereafter, he was wearing his new uniform for Day 2 of the three-day minicamp.
“I was fortunate enough to be with De’Vondre back when we drafted him in Atlanta, and studied a lot of his film with Arizona,” coach Matt LaFleur said after practice. “He’s a guy that is a big, long guy that can run. Definitely brings a different dynamic to that room in his ability to just cover, whether it’s tight ends or backs. And we think he’s a really versatile player. I think he’s a great person, first and foremost, which I think is so important for our team.”
A fourth-round pick from Minnesota in 2016 with rare size at 6-foot-4, Campbell has started 70 of a possible 80 games in his five seasons, including all 16 games last season. He’s played in all 16 games in each of the past four seasons, when he averaged 914 snaps per season and 57.1 per game.
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To make room, the Packers released running back Mike Weber. A seventh-round pick by Dallas in 2019, he spent the second half of last season on the Green Bay practice squad.
Campbell was a player of interest last offseason but the Packers chose Christian Kirksey, a street free agent who wouldn’t affect compensatory draft picks. A few days later, Campbell signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals as an unrestricted free agent. He posted 99 tackles, seven for losses, two sacks and one forced fumble. According to Sports Info Solutions, he missed 14 tackles (12.6 percent), allowed a 65.9 percent catch rate and 5.5 yards per target.
"I've always kind of pride myself in being multi-dimensional," Campbell said after recording 10 tackles vs. Washington in Week 2. "I feel like I can rush, cover and play behind the ball. That's something I've always kind of taken pride in throughout the course of my football career. Some people are surprised (I can cover) considering I am a bigger guy, because I can run with tight ends, wide receivers and running backs. It kind of surprises a lot of people. But it never surprises me because I know what I'm capable of."
In 2019, his final season with the Atlanta Falcons, he set career-high totals of 129 tackles, two sacks, six tackles for losses, two interceptions and three forced fumbles. He added five passes defensed. His missed-tackle rate of 5.9 percent was fifth-best of the 31 linebackers who recorded at least 100 tackles, according to SIS, but allowed 7.9 yards per target and a 79.5 percent catch rate.
The missed tackles last season were out of character. He missed a combined 13 the previous two seasons and averaged 6.5 misses his first four seasons.
A scout familiar with Campbell’s play said, “I really liked him early in his career, but I think his career has trended the wrong way. He’s a low-end starter.”
Campbell was the 115th selection of the 2016 draft. The Packers selected Blake Martinez with the 131st selection.
Campbell will add to a depth chart that includes second-year players Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin, third-year player Ty Summers and sixth-round rookie Isaiah McDuffie. Barnes emerged as the team’s top linebacker last season. Summers got some first-team reps ahead of Martin on Wednesday.
“Inside ‘backer was obviously one of those things that we were hoping to address maybe earlier in the draft. It just didn’t happen to fall that way for us,” Gutekunst said after the draft. “As we move forward, I’ve talked a lot about roster building being 365 days a year, so we’ll continue to look at that.”