Inside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell brings good pass-coverage skills to Packers' defense

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GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers are confident inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell will be able to help them this season.

The contract they gave the sixth-year free agent is for one-year, $2 million and includes a $1.01 million signing bonus, according to a league source. The Packers added four voidable years to cut his salary-cap number from $2 million to around $1.19 million in 2021.

There are also $500,000 in play-time incentives.

The size of the signing bonus indicates the Packers expect the 6-4, 232-pound Campbell to compete for a starting job. He has been a starter since entering the league with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 and last year started all 16 games for Arizona, compiling 91 tackles, two sacks and three pass breakups.

“Good coverage ability,” an NFC scout said.  “He's a bigger linebacker, but he's more of a finesse player than a downhill thumper. He has good natural feel in coverage. He's an aware zone player with man-cover skill vs. the tight end. He's been durable and he's a good player.”

Packers linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (59) watches during minicamp practice Thursday.

The 27-year-old Campbell, who was working out in Minnesota waiting for a call, said he was glad he signed before the Packers’ minicamp so that he had time to learn new defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s playbook.

“That’s probably the biggest thing, being able to get in here, talk with the coaches and really pick their brains and try to get some information from them before we get this little small break before we have to report back to training camp,” Campbell said. “I didn't want to come into training camp not having any type of football in me other than last season.”

Youthful excitement

Za’Darius Smith was careful not to give away any top-secret information on what Barry is bringing to the Packers' defense. 

So excuse the second-team All-Pro outside linebacker if he got a little uncomfortable discussing the differences between Barry and predecessor Mike Pettine. Right now, the Packers have the element of surprise in their favor. 

Still, Smith reluctantly let loose one contrast between his new defensive coordinator and old one. 

“I feel like both coaches are great coaches,” Smith said. “I feel like Joe is more younger with excitement. You know, he’s jumping around in drills. He’s basically going through the drills with us. And Pettine was a great coach too, but it is what it is. This is a hard question, because I love both coaches.” 

As for scheme, Barry’s defense is expected to be similar to Pettine’s playbook, though without divulging details Smith indicated there will some changes. 

“The new D coordinator is bringing some good stuff to this defense, man,” Smith said. 

Smiths stay together

While Pettine did not return this season, Smith was pleased to see his counterpart Preston Smith stay with the Packers. 

It required a pay cut for Preston Smith to return. The Packers not only converted some of his salary into guaranteed bonuses, as they did with a handful of veterans including Za’Darius Smith, but they also trimmed it by $4 million. 

Preston Smith missed minicamp because he was in the COVID-19 protocol, something Za’Darius Smith returned from after missing the first practice this week. Preston Smith will be back for training camp, and Za’Darius Smith said his return this season will be big for the defense. 

“Man, I’m happy to have P back,” Za’Darius Smith said. “Whatever was going on with the situation, I don’t know. We all had to do restructures on our deal. But P is a guy who is all in. I hate that he’s not here right now because of protocol, but it is what it is. We can’t wait to get him back, and P is a guy who keeps everybody going in the meeting rooms. When people are down, he’s the guy that’s keeping us laughing, man, and keeping us encouraged on and off the field. So it’ll be good to get P back when we come to training camp. So can’t wait to get him back, man. Smith bros.” 

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