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June

B.J. Raji: Next in line, when will he sign?

Packers DL B.J. Raji

Packers DL B.J. Raji

Despite being predictably quiet throughout free agency, the Packers have successfully locked up perhaps their two most valuable players.

The team locked up quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews to long-term contract extensions. Matthews signed a five-year deal that makes him the highest-paid defensive player in football, while Rodgers became the highest-paid player in league history.

The next guy in line for a new deal may be defensive lineman B.J. Raji.

The Packers spent the ninth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft on Raji–a player they hoped would anchor the defensive line as they transitioned to the 3-4 alignment.

One Pro Bowl, a Super Bowl and four years later, Raji is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

Since becoming a weekly starter in 2010, he has started all but two regular-season games for the Packers. Statistically, Raji’s best season was in 2010 when he racked up 6.5 sacks and scored the deciding touchdown in the NFC Championship Game in Chicago. Following Raji’s breakout year in 2010,  he was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2011 despite an inconsistent season.

Pro Football Focus gave Raji a +15.1 season grade in 2010, -20.8 in 2011 and a +6.5 last season. And now, Raji has high expectations for himself as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

“I want to get back to the Pro Bowl,” said Raji, according to JSOnline.com. “I think that I have that ability. And I want to help other guys get to the Pro Bowl who haven’t been there. I want to obviously help us get back to being a top-five defense. And I just want to dominate the game, from Week 1 to whenever we’re done playing and just have an impact in every football game.”

Raji’s agent, David Dunn, also represents Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews. Both Rodgers and Matthews signed contract extensions earlier this offseason.

“I’m not really going to talk contracts,” Raji said, per the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “Obviously, the Packers are a great organization and I’m sure they’ll do right by me. I’ll leave it at that.”

In 2012, Raji’s play improved dramatically after the team’s Week 10 bye.

Pro Football Focus: B.J. Raji in 2012

Pro Football Focus: B.J. Raji in 2012

Save for a poor performance in the divisional round of the NFC Playoffs against the San Francisco 49ers, and Raji was among the team’s most consistent defensive players over the second half of the season.

Whether he’s locked up before, during or after the 2013 season, it’d be a surprise if the Packers didn’t reach an extension with Raji at some point. Defensive linemen Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson and Mike Neal are all scheduled to hit free agency after this season.

And if Pickett, 33, is not retained by the team, the Packers could use some of that money to keep Raji around for the long haul.

Following the extensions for Matthews and Rodgers, the Packers are roughly $13 million below the salary cap, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Raji–along with cornerback Sam Shields, who has yet to sign his restricted free-agent tender–could still be sign a new deal before the season.

The Packers have made it a priority to strengthen their depth on the defensive line in the past two drafts. Last year, they used a second-round pick on Jerel Worthy and a fourth-round pick on Mike Daniels. This past April, the Packer used their first-round pick on Datone Jones and added Josh Boyd in the fifth round.

But with several expiring contracts at the position, the Packers will have to decide which defensive linemen they’ll keep around beyond this season. Raji, the most proven of the bunch, looks like the safest bet to stick around beyond 2013.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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33 Responses to “B.J. Raji: Next in line, when will he sign?”

  1. lmills says:

    When he wants to be, Raji can be the most dominating player on the field. The problem is him disappearing for half of the game. He needs to be more consistent. Lazy or overworked?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

    • Wagszilla says:

      Lazy.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

    • Oppy says:

      I honestly can’t remember a single game where I thought “BJ Raji is the most dominant player on the field”.

      Seriously.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. ScottS says:

    “Obviously, the Packers are a great organization and I’m sure they’ll do right by me. I’ll leave it at that.”
    Great quote but he still has to earn it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. Razer says:

    Mike Neal has been a physical specimen since college and basically done very little in the league. I don’t care if Raji shows up with a belly so long as he plugs up the middle and makes teams go left and right of him. The story isn’t about his shape but his play and that is coming soon enough.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  4. Archie says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9

  5. Oppy says:

    I hope Raji proves me wrong, but I still haven’t seen him be the dominant player the Packers as a NT.

    If the Packers are looking to sign a NT to a long term, big time contract, at this point, I’d say Raji hasn’t done enough to earn it.

    If the Packers are looking at Raji to be a player at DE or as an interior DT in sub packages where we have 4 down linemen on the field, sure, give him a long term extension.

    He’s been a good player, not a cornerstone player. Maybe having more talent around him will push him over the top this season, and that’d be great… But then, a cornerstone player shouldn’t be in need of talent to excel, he should be bringing up the level of those around him.

    Hope for the best.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

    • Oppy says:

      **”…haven’t seen him be the dominant player the Packers *envisioned* as a NT.”

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Savage57 says:

      Oppy, very good points.

      All things Raji circle back to his awareness and reconciliation of who he really has been as a player in the league. It’s no longer a function of his draft position, which has become irrelevant and overcome by events.

      Good, sometimes even very good in his roles. For that he should be paid accordingly and nothing more.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. GBPDAN says:

    Raji has been a inconsistent teaser, not a full time pleaser

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. Archie says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 11

  8. Archie says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9

    • ScottS says:

      Piss-poor compared to who? Would you rather have the Bears, Lions or Vikings drafts? Oh my God! TT is not perfect! Whatever shall we do?!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    • Oppy says:

      Well, I’ll start my response by saying that Casey Hayward was drafted in the third round last year, and was a strong consideration for defensive rookie of the year.

      I’ll finish by saying I won’t comment on the rest, since you are already cross-mixing your data points to try to make things sound worse than they are (You gripe about the only good defensive players drafted in the first three rounds by TT, but then throw out a total number of 27 picks.. Which isn’t the number of defensive picks in the first three rounds…)

      We get it already, you never forgave TT for sending BrINT Farkle packing.
      Or maybe you caught TT in bed with your brother. Whatever.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

      • Barutan Seijin says:

        Who raised the Favre issue? It wasn’t Archie.

        Packer fans treated Favre just like they treat Rodgers and TT. The guy walked on water — just as TT and Rodgers do today. Same attitude, different guys.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

      • cow42 says:

        wasn’t hayward a 2nd rder?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        • Oppy says:

          Whoops, yep, he was. I confused the third pick with the third round I think. good catch.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. FITZCORE1252 says:

    Well put Oppy and Dan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  10. Manitou says:

    Quote “Raji’s best season was in 2010 when he racked up 6.5 sacks.” That could have been due to in part to Cullen Jenkins. All the other Linemen and LBs (except Mathews) are average at best. Raji can’t do it alone. If (?), Datone Jones can provide a spark, that will make everybody else better

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. Ron LC says:

    No need to rush a signing through. Raji needs to demonstrate that he can be the guy who plays consistently on the opponents side of the LOS. His main job as an interior Dlineman is to disrupt the plays of the opponents O. Demonstrate that this year and sign him after the SB.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Stroh says:

      Actually his primary job as a 34 DL is to tie up a couple blockers! 34 DL are blocker eaters so the LB can run to the ball. A 43 D may allow DL to play on the other side of the LOS, but that is NOT the case much in a 34 D. Please try to learn about the difference between the 2 D and the responsibilities! Its tiring having to explain it to you over and over again!!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

      • cow42 says:

        so why would you pick a guy at #9 when all you need him to do is be fat and force 2 guys to try to move you?

        stroh – you over simplify the role of an interior lineman in a 3/4. yes – he needs to be able to hold his ground vs multiple blockers… but the good ones are capable of doing so much more.

        raji isn’t really great at anything… he’s merely “pretty good” at some things every once in a while.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        • Stroh says:

          The good ones are able to take on 2 blockers and hold the point. The GREAT ones are able to make plays. I’m not saying Raji is a Great player, but he’s also more than good. Like I said, if he gets to FA there will be a long list of teams very interested in signing him. Finding NT are the lynch pin of a 34 D. If you have a chance to get a 34 NT that you can base the rest of your D off you take him! And Raji is a guy that can do everything a 34 NT can do and occasionally make a play. Teams are always searching for NT, both 34 and 43, and one that can disrupt the pocket sometimes is even more valuable. That’s what Raji is…

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        • Stroh says:

          “I did not have a sack last year, but according to Trgo and Coach McCarthy they felt last year was probably one of my best pass-rushing years. So go figure?,” Raji said. “Obviously, I’d love to have the numbers to support that. But ultimately, I’m just about winning. Hopefully, I can help us win next year by having some more sacks.”

          PackerNews.com

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • Ron LC says:

        To disrupt the play requires the dlinemen to be at or on the other side of the LOS. Dosen’t do any good to tie blockers 2 or 3 yards off the line. I wish you’d learn that know-it-all.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        • Stroh says:

          LB in the 34 are the playmakers, disrupters. The scheme is designed for the DL to tie up blockers and leave the 4 LB to roam the field and make plays. The 34 is NOT a scheme for DL to be playmakers. Sure occasionally they do or some premier 34 DL might be playmakers, but the JJ Watts of the world aren’t available every year.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

          • Ron LC says:

            According to Gilbert Brown and Gary Ellerson Raji is not suited to play in the 34. He’d be better in the 43. I agree with that assesment. Yours is just so much Yada Yada.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

            • Stroh says:

              Pretty sure McCarthy, Capers, Thompson and most of the Packers scouts feel Raji can play very well in a 34 D. Otherwise they wouldn’t have drafted him to be one. Raji IMO can play in any defensive scheme, 34, 43, 25, whatever… I’ll take the coaches and Thompsons opinion over Gilbert and a RB anyday and twice on Sundays.

              The Packers happen to be blessed w/ 2 of them. Raji can play NT and DE and Pickett who used to be able to play both, but now can only play NT since he doesn’t have the mobility to play DE anymore. Hence, the reason you see Raji at DE some.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

            • Stroh says:

              Oh and the Packes won a SB w/ Raji playing NT Full time. I don’t see the need to further the discussion. That tells me all I need to know.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

              • cow42 says:

                If Raji played for the Lions you would say he’s overrated.

                You are always blinded by your G&G glasses… I’m jealous, in a way.

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

              • Stroh says:

                NT are drafted in the 1st every year that are nothing but run stuffers. Dan Williams in AZ is one of the recent ones. Raji is both a better run stuffer and pass rusher than he is. No goggles here. My glasses are clear and see the talent as it is. Your the one blinded by your 9er goggles!

                Kaepernick has revolutionized the NFL my azz.

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Stroh says:

      “I did not have a sack last year, but according to Trgo and Coach McCarthy they felt last year was probably one of my best pass-rushing years. So go figure?,” Raji said. “Obviously, I’d love to have the numbers to support that. But ultimately, I’m just about winning. Hopefully, I can help us win next year by having some more sacks.”

      PackerNews.com… Yeah I can see what you mean. Raji’s a hack, he shouldn’t be in the NFL! LOL

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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