The NFL has taken center stage this week with a flurry of offseason free-agency signings as many other pro sports leagues navigate suspended seasons. And while a number of big-name quarterbacks are making headlines, the Baltimore Ravens have approached free agency by emphasizing a less glamorous but still crucial position — the defensive line.
Seeking to build upon a defensive line that managed an NFL-low four sacks last year, and seeking to fill a hole with the departure of defensive tackle Michael Pierce to the Minnesota Vikings, the Ravens have focused their attention on the available defensive linemen.
Baltimore took its first step to fill the need on Monday when it agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal with defensive tackle Michael Brockers, according to Bleacher Report. The 29-year-old former Los Angeles Ram played in all 16 games last year and recorded 63 combined tackles and three sacks.
UPDATE (3/27): The deal with Brockers fell through, and he returned to the Rams.
Then on Thursday, the Ravens sent a 2020 fifth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell. Shortly after the trade, the team also gave the 33-year-old Campbell a one-year contract extension. Campbell hasn’t missed a regular-season game since he was with the Cardinals in 2014, and last year he totaled 56 combined tackles with 6.5 sacks. Campbell is also the most recent winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Brockers and Campbell are both men of faith, and this fall they will join a fellow follower of Christ, defensive tackle Brandon Williams, on a revamped Ravens defensive line. As they plan to build chemistry along the defensive front, the three men will encourage one another and build each other up in faith.
“It’s just one of those cool things to know that you’ve got brothers in Christ to kind of bounce ideas off, to lean on, to kind of just have a shoulder to cry on or just talk to,” Williams said in the Fall 2019 edition of the Sports Spectrum Magazine, adding, “It’s just so amazing what God can do through your life with anything. However bad you think you’re going through it, whatever you think is the worst of the worst, He can use that and make it the most beautiful thing in the world.”
It will be easy for Williams to find that Christian encouragement. All he will have to do is look to his left and his right and he will find two believers who have also accepted new life in Christ.
“[God will] never leave you nor forsake you, and don’t rush His timing,” Brockers said on a Super Bowl edition of the Sports Spectrum Podcast in February 2019. “Everything is in His hands and everything is in His control, so at the end of the day, you can be stress-free knowing that … you’re going to be good because you’re in His hands.”
Brockers also discussed the platform believers in the NFL have for making disciples and furthering God’s Kingdom.
“We’re supposed to share that light and be that light for the world, and being on this platform, I think the most important part is showing people and letting them know what you represent. And that’s Christ,” he said. “Being a great person and a great citizen, but at the end of the day understanding Who you do this for.”
God used Athletes in Action to impact Campbell’s heart when he was in college at Miami. Still, the seeds for growth were planted early in life by his mother. Campbell, who won the Bart Starr Award at the 2019 Super Bowl Breakfast, thanked his mother for all she did to teach him about God.
“Mom, I just appreciate you making sure that we knew Jesus,” Campbell said. “I remember being a little kid and being scared of the dark, or whatever, my mom just told me, ‘Nothing can ever happen to you as long as you’re covered in the blood of Jesus.’ That was real and it’s been with me ever since.”
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