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FA LB De’Vondre Campbell leaves Falcons for Cardinals

It gives the Falcons another gap on the roster to fill.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Another member of the praised 2016 Falcons draft class is out the door. Strong side linebacker De’Vondre Campbell has signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals.

Campbell becomes the third member of this free agent class who was “allowed to test the market,” as the team put it, and all three left. Austin Hooper was gone before free agency even really opened and Wes Schweitzer was snapped up quickly, and now Campbell is gone too.

The move doesn’t come at a huge surprise, considering Campbell was likely going to strike a bigger deal elsewhere and the Falcons had other priorities. After the Falcons signed Dante Fowler to a big three-year contract, it made Campbell’s departure even more likely.

Campbell was a solid, durable starter for four seasons, manning the strong side of the linebackers corps and setting the edge. He’s not irreplaceable, but it does leave the Falcons with yet another discernible roster gap to worry about going into the fall, especially because he was a versatile, consistently healthy player for a team that rarely has enough of those.

The team could do as it’s been tempted to for some time now and draft a linebacker in the first round, which would admittedly be an upgrade move, or they could draft one later or even sign a mid-tier free agent to play next to star linebacker Deion Jones and emerging starter Foye Oluokun.

However this goes, Atlanta will need to play this replacement smart. A good linebacking core is crucial in today’s NFL, and despite his flaws, Campbell did his job admirably and outperformed his fourth-round draft status.

We wish Campbell well in his new Bird-friendly team, as he’s the latest Falcons free agent to join the Red Sea (joining Robert Alford, Brooks Reed and Corey Peters).