Packers Decision-Time Nearing on B.J. Raji

The Green Bay Packers had a dilemma coming off the 2013 season. Their starting defensive end recorded only 17 combined tackles in a 16 game season with zero explosive plays. He had become a place-holder rather than a play-maker.

What does that translate to in terms of a new contract, if anything?

If you were the Green Bay Packers would you consider that player’s body of work over 5 seasons? Would you admit that he was essentially playing out of position and promise a position move? Finally would you reward the player with a new one-year $4M prove-it contract? They did.

It didn’t work.

Prior to the start of the season he tears a biceps tendon and doesn’t play a defensive snap all year long.

Such is the case with former Packers NT B.J. Raji.

Fast forward to 2015 and the Packers have another, albeit much smaller, dilemma. Raji is again an unrestricted free agent and with almost a week into the signing period he remains unsigned.

The Packers have expressed an interest in Raji but are in no hurry to make an offer preferring to let the market dictate the interest in their former defensive lineman.

The career of the former first round pick from the Boston College alum began in 2009 and peaked in 2010. It was during the Packers amazing run to the Super Bowl that Raji’s star was on the rise. He posted career best stats while playing in 16 games with 29 tackles at his preferred nose tackle position. And what Packers fan doesn’t recall the famous pick-6 of a Jay Cutler pass and the ensuing Raji-Dance to cap off the NFC Conference Championship game over the rival Chicago Bears? Since 2010 it has been a disappointing down-hill ride for the mercurial Raji.

Where does that leave B.J. Raji going into week 2 of free agency?

If you are an athletic 6’ 2”, 337 lbs. nose tackle and only 28 years old, surely there will be opportunities.

The latest buzz for Raji, per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, is that he is weighing multiple offers in deciding where he will play next season. He wants to return to Green Bay but that’s not a sure thing.  No teams are specifically mentioned other than the Packers as a possible suitor.

This may very well be agent-speak in an attempt to draw interest to his client. However, with teams like the cash-rich Jacksonville Jaguars throwing big-money at mediocre talent, you never know.

I would guess Raji returns to the Packers on a one-year contract at about $1.5M including guaranteed money of less than $300,000 and much of the contract tied to game-day-active roster bonuses in the $50,000/game range.  With other incentives mixed in, the Packers will guard against injury or poor play and reward Raji should he become a force once again.

For Raji and his agent there is an urgency to get something done sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile time remains on the side of the Packers and they can afford to be patient.

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Jeff Albrecht grew up just north of Green Bay and was lucky enough to attend some of the Lombardi Era classic games, like the 1962 championship and the Ice Bowl. Jeff went on to play HS football in the Green Bay area and College ball at UW - Stevens Point. Jeff is retired but still does some writing for his local paper. Jeff is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @pointerjeff .

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24 thoughts on “Packers Decision-Time Nearing on B.J. Raji

  1. IMO the Packers have the luxury of waiting before signing Raji. Like T. Williams, the longer Raji goes without an offer from another team the more his price to sign will decline. Unlike T. Williams, the Packers or any other team can’t really be certain if Raji will return to form even if he goes back to the NT position. The Packers also have options. They can re-sign Guion, pending his legal issues, they can draft DLs and they sign Free Agent DLs. None of those options guarantee anything either but they impact Raji’s price. I believe Raji will be back with the Packers and that if he remains healthy he will play well, having now learned that his career could have been over already. Raji and another NT, whether Guion, an FA or a draft pick, could be a viable NT rotation for the Packers. TT seems to be playing it very cool at this point with T. Williams, Raji and the remaining unsigned Packer FAs. Time will tell. Thanks, Since ’61

    1. Given that the market was soft for Raji last year and he spent 2014 hurt, I think that in the end the Packers will probably be offering more cash than just about anyone else, so I agree: I think he’ll be back. At this stage, you really don’t lose anything by bringing him back and letting him compete for a roster spot come July…especially if Guion loses 4 games to start the season. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the Packers draft 2 DL, either, so he might be “not-for-long” even if he does sign a 1-year deal.

  2. They have Boyd who was improving a lot by years end and Pennel who may take the next step as well with more play time, Raji may not be a high priority to Thompson, They also have Thornton coming back this year along with Robinson who looked pretty good also.
    It will be nice to get Raji at a low prove it deal for a year again but I don’t think it’s a do or die signing!

    If Guion can get his legal matters worked out and not be suspended for any games then He may be a better choice than Raji anyways IMO!

  3. just don’t get too cute with these guys and end up with a bunch of JAG’s on defense like we’ve had the last few years at the same time having an all world offense…you want a Super Bowl, we need a better defense…if the defense could of stopped Seattle once in the 4th period we would of been in the SuperBowl…in Ted we trust….i hope…

    1. That INT should have done it. It was stupid not to run it further upfield, and that’s on the D. But #12 and his receivers were awful. That plus some craptastic playcalling and the worst special teams ever brought us the biggest packer choke ever.

  4. I never saw passion in his play and effort. Other than 2010 he has been nothing but a money pit. The Packers may be better off to not take away a roster spot from one of the younger guys previously mentioned.

    1. This is one of the nice things about the move away from 6-8 year contracts in the NFL: you’re not married to a guy or to his dead cap money forever if he turns out to be a fat-cat. With the exception of ARod, has TT signed anyone to a deal for any more than 4 years in recent memory? What did they sign Matthews for?

      On 4-year deals, these guys are all looking forward to their next contract. They’re motivated to play because they can get another payday (rather than getting released due to excessive cap numbers) before they get old.

    1. Kind of agree with you Mr. T. Raji is sort of like Matt Flynn making a living off of one game that sticks in the minds of fans forever. For Raji it was the interception in the NFC Championship game and his dance. Now that was one hell of a year overall for Raji but it’s been downhill ever since.
      If the Packers were serious last year about getting smaller more quicker guys on the d-line like Guion than I don’t see a long term future for Raji. Of course it will come down to money. If his price drops low enough, they’ll sign him hoping to get a motivated player wanting to prove himself for one more year. Simple as that.
      Ted

  5. Maybe I come from a different time but I can’t understand how anybody thinks that Guion is an option. He is obviously into drugs and given the gun, cash and pound of weed, it is a question of how far away from the team do you want this guy. The NFL wants to market itself as a league with some sort of God-dell like standards so what do you think they will have to say about this whole sad affair. Either way, I don’t think that we need this baggage for an average inside body. I would much rather see Raji back on a prove it contract. We can either fill the depth in with a draft pick or mid-tier FA – kind of like Guion was.

      1. Have to agree again with Big T. Guion has a registered gun so nothing wrong with that. He cashed his game check. Nothing wrong with that. He had some medical marijuana which is becoming legal in many states as the years go on.Nothing really wrong with that especially if he’s using it to alleviate pain from playing or lingering injury. He swerved to miss a pot hole. Nothing wrong with that. He played his ass off and had damn good year!! Nothing wrong with that. Sign the man!!

        Ted

          1. Dah….. Did you think it was his blue eyes……Need I say he had money the police could confiscate……If he was a pretty woman the cop would have let her go hoping she’d meet him later…..Cops mostly are men and men are mostly dogs in heat.

  6. Guion last season > Raji his last 2 seasons while healthy. I’m not sold on Raji as a NT at all, never have been… but he knows he needs to show up if he wants a real contract anywhere (just like last year), so now off a major injury he’s got even more to prove. Maybe it’ll work out for the best, but I don’t think Raji has it where it counts (heart) so I’ll hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Guion probably looking at suspension time, at least 4 games I’d think, so that puts Pennel and Boyd in the spotlight to start out season. Doesn’t make me real confident as our defense has suffered from being weak up the middle for years, and finally after righting that ship mid way through the season (with Guion clicking and Matthews stepping into the ILB spot often), now we’ve got question marks in the belly of the first two levels of the defense.

    Could be a major step backwards for a D that looked like its arrow was finally pointing up for a change. Crossing my fingers going into the draft and preseason.

    1. My periodic rant. Signing Raji to a 1 yr. prove-it deal is fine. Even if Raji has a great year, (imagine all caps) Never, Never ever, give Raji a bunch of guaranteed money.

  7. Unless Teddy and the boys have their sights set on someone in the draft, I say bring him back and add him to the rotation. He should be fresh next year after having a year off, and he’ll be back at his natural position, plus Ted should be able to sign him to a team/cap friendly deal.

  8. Raji on a one-year deal is very, very good Raji. Raji only does what he absolutely needs to do- he can get by with less- and he NEEDS to have a monster year. Pay the man now– say $2 million– but let him get his big money contract elsewhere.

  9. I don’t agree with the author or Since ’61 in this case. In a vacuum, waiting Raji out makes sense. Maybe TT can squeeze out a 500K savings. But while we are messing (feel free to insert alternative word for messing) around with Raji, it is quite possible that all of the FA alternatives might get signed. Pot Roast Knighton just signed for 1 year, $4 million. Ellis might sign with someone in the near future. Maybe Guion ends up in jail after all, or is suspended for longer than anticipated. Someone suggested that GB could rely on Luther Robinson or Thornton at NT. That suggestion took my breath away. I write this knowing that Tramon bolted for Cleveland, leaving yet another possible hole at CB for TT to fill in the draft, leaving TT less flexibility (I am not that concerned since I think TT probably would have taken a CB during the middle rounds either way, and we can probably “get by” with our current CBs).

    GB can be too cheap. It is time to get some pieces in place. Shore up at least one position on the defense with a FA. Don’t worry whether GB can save chump change by waiting longer, and risk the FA market drying up, or relying on Pennel (who I like) to make a jump, or having to move Boyd to NT. That said, I trust in TT, but I reserve the right to blast him if this situation implodes.

  10. With Knighton and Wilfork both off the market, and Raji being one of the last true nose blobs left on the market, someone (NE, Denver?) will overpay for him.

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