Could the Packers find a De'Vondre Campbell-like steal in 2022?
The Packers signed De'Vondre Campbell on the cheap last year and ended up with a field-tilting starting linebacker. Who might provide a comparably good return on investment in 2022?
Though the move received precious little attention at the time, the Green Bay Packers made arguably the best signing of the 2021 season on June 9, a date well after the big money had flown out of free agency and the draft had effectively put the final touches on most rosters. Even in Wisconsin, the decision quickly fell off the radar. Not even the Packers knew they had just struck an all-time great deal.
That move, the addition of De'Vondre Campbell for the paltry sum of $2 million, set the stage for a remarkable star turn. Campbell transformed from a journeyman linebacker to a first-team All-Pro seemingly in the blink of an eye, giving the Packers defense its first true field-tilter in the middle in well over a decade. Campbell has since signed a five-year, $50 million contract to keep him in Green Bay for the foreseeable future. While a fair price for an important player, the agreement also serves to highlight the incredible value of his previous deal.
Landing such a high-impact player at such a low cost doesn't happen often, but the Packers appear to have a knack for this type of move. Later in the year, they signed Rasul Douglas off the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad and watched him become a Pro Bowl alternate. Surely, the front office hopes to replicate that success again in 2022, and several candidates capable of providing strong returns exist.
Before proceeding, let's define terms. A Campbell-like addition doesn't necessarily mean that an inexpensive veteran will turn into a first-team All-Pro. That scenario nearly never transpires, as Campbell's 2021 season represents one of the most remarkable individual achievements in Green Bay over the past decade. Rather, this exercise seeks to identify veterans who signed or could join the Packers this offseason on a cheap deal and turn into a high-level contributor that meaningfully improves the team's title hopes.
With that explanation out of the way, let's investigate the candidates.