1) Introduction: BJ Raji was once held in the same high esteem as Clay Matthews, a defensive player that the Packers could build the next decade around. Add to that a little bit of flair moonlighting as a jumbo full back, a dance that got him a commercial with Aaron Rodgers and you had the recipe for a fan favorite. However, Raji has quickly fallen out of favor, perhaps topped by the rumor that Raji rejected a contract extension worth $8 million annually in favor of testing free agency; a grain of salt needs to be taken with this number as annual salary says nothing most importantly about guaranteed money and could be tied heavily to incentives but Raji took a big risk by betting on himself in 2013. Now that 2013 has come and gone and $8 million with all strings attached probably looks like a good deal, what is in future of the Packers 1st pick in 2009?
Busari J Raji
- Age: 27
- Born: 7/11/1986 in Zephyrhills, FL
- Height: 6’2″
- Weight: 337
- College: Boston College
- Rookie Year: 2009
- NFL Experience: 5
3) Expectations coming into the season: High. Raji was the 7th best 3-4 defensive end in 2012 according to ProFootballFocus and while Raji didn’t have outstanding statistics, most notably recording 0 sacks in 2012, Raji was still the best defensive linemen for the Packers, especially against the run. Many fans were expecting Raji to be a candidate for a mid-season extension in 2012, much like fellow 2009 1st round draft pick Clay Matthews but instead the Packers allowed Raji to finish out his contract with Raji trying to maximize his next contract with some great play. Again while impressive number probably were never in Raji’s cards, a couple dominating games with Raji splitting double teams and getting a couple sacks was not out of the question if Raji returned to 2010 form.
4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Raji’s 2013 season as a whole can be considered a lowlight; Raji ranked second to last in ProFootballFocus’s 3-4 defensive end metrics and was clearly not doing much despite recording 666 snaps. Perhaps most intriguing was the fact that Raji had a complete performance reversal, going from one of the best run defenders in 2012 to the worst in the league. Raji also played 123 snaps at nose tackle and wasn’t much better there, ranking 107 out of 148 (he did not qualify as a nose tackle in PFF due to low snap count). Raji again did not record a sack, and while 3-4 defensive ends aren’t really expected to post double digits sack numbers (FYI most JJ Watts’ sacks come from a more traditional 4-3 DT position), 2-3 sacks should be completely expected; the only two worse 3-4 DEs (PIT Ziggy Hood and SD Kendall Reyes) recorded 3 and 5 sacks in 2013 respectively.
5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Poor. Raji was a liability when on the field and unfortunately he was on the field a lot. Raji’s snap counts have been steadily declining since 2010, which hit a ludicrous 1,092 snaps, with the idea that a more fresh Raji would equate to a more explosive player and lengthen his career. Ironically each year his snap count has gotten smaller but Raji has actually performed worse, with his 2012 season being his only good year outside the Packers 2010 Super Bowl season. It’s quite possible that Raji had already given up on resigning with the Packers and was just trying to get out of the 3-4 system, but it’s unlikely that such a poor performance will garner him much attention of 4-3 defensive teams after this year.
6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Raji played 46 snaps in the wildcard game, and like the rest of the defense didn’t do all that well against the 49ers offense, recording 2 tackles and 1 run stop.
Season Report Card:
(F) Level of expectations met during the season
(F) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(D) Contributions to team during the playoffs
Overall Grade: F+——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.