19

December

What Happened to Packers Defensive Lineman B.J. Raji?

Where have you gone, B.J. Raji?

The Green Bay Packers have desperately missed Aaron Rodgers ever since he went down with a broken collarbone in week eight. Over that same stretch, the Packers have also desperately missed B.J. Raji, even though the 337-pound defensive lineman played in every game.

Through the season’s first eight games, Raji was a force. He was energetic and explosive and spent a good amount of time in the opposing team’s backfield. It looked like the Raji of 2010 had returned and he was finally establishing himself as one of those elite defensive lineman who doesn’t put up big stats, but makes a world of difference each and every week beyond the box score.

Then Raji fell off the face of the Earth. He didn’t just regress, he disappeared.

It’s weird because there were no warning signs that Raji was about to go in the tank. He was one of the few players on the team that hasn’t battled injuries (as far as we know, anyway). He’s still young and he’s a free agent this offseason. All signs pointed to a good season becoming great for the former No. 9 overall pick out of Boston College.

Raji was credited for 11 solo defensive stops through the first eight games, according to Pro Football Focus. He only has two in the last six games. Also according to Pro Football Focus, Raji has finished with a negative run defense rating in every game since the Bears loss.

Even if you’re not into Pro Football Focus metrics, it’s painfully obvious that Raji has fallen off a cliff. He’s always been susceptible to getting completely wiped out of running plays, but it’s gone from happening every now and then to happening on a regular basis. Watch the Vikings tie or the final drive of the Eagles game. When the Packers desperately needed a run-stuffing play up front, there was Raji getting washed down the line or blown off the ball.

Rumor has it that Raji turned down an $8 million per season contract extension from the Packers earlier this season. At the time, the offer made sense. Raji is a big and athletic lineman who played well inside and was able to hold his own outside. He’s also durable, a rarity on the modern-day Packers. He wasn’t a superstar, but $8 million per year for the type of player that Raji was matched the market rate.

Now, after Raji’s disappearing act, $8 million per season seems like about $7.5 million too much.

We’re all waiting desperately for Rodgers to make his triumphant return. It’d be nice if he brings the good version of B.J. Raji with him. If Raji continues getting bowled backwards and running backs are allowed to run free on the Packers defense, this late-season run could end in a hurry.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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58 Responses to “What Happened to Packers Defensive Lineman B.J. Raji?”

  1. Wayne Crannell says:

    One wonders if he has already decided he will not resign with the Packers and therefore is less willing to give his all for the Packers. If true, this is short-sighted and immature on his part. It also doesn’t seem in character for him, but exhibit #1 would be the Greg Jennings situation.

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    • Corey says:

      Fair enougn, but phoning it in for the last half the season wouldn’t exactly be the best strategy if he’s looking for $8M+ from another team. They’re just going to look at this season and say “Do you really think we’re going to pay you $9M after this season?”

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  2. Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

    Raji is a high-character, nice-guy teddy bear type who is playing football because he can make a ton of money. He doesn’t have the nasty personality needed to play the defensive line in the NFL. He has his moments, but it’s just not in him.

    He’s from NJ – same town my sister lives in. When he was drafted by the Packers I talked to people who knew him and they warned me that he’s “soft.” I could only hope he would be able to transform himself, but it hasn’t happened.

    I also heard before this season that Raji was looking to bank just one more max contract for 3-4 years and then get the hell out of football.

    I believe (and hope) that contract will be somewhere other than Green Bay. Signing Sam Shields should be a priority.

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    • Razer says:

      His play or lack thereof sure seems to support these comments. Losing playing time to 6th round Josh Boyd tells you everything that you need to know about his performance. But then you gotta wonder what TT is doing offering the guy 8 million per year going forward. I know that we are not free agent friendly, but you gotta believe that we could pay two guys to fill this hole in the line. Sometimes TT extensions to his draft picks fly in the face of what a guy’s performance merits.

      At this rate, Raji may be on the bench before he becomes a free agent.

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    • Mark says:

      Do he get offended at the $8 mil and now is tanking?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Archie says:

      And what that does say about a GM who used that pick to build his defense around?!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Big O says:

    Well it’s hard to believe Raji isn’t bothered that he’s playing like he is, even if he doesn’t want to sign with the Packers this kind of play isn’t going to impress teams who are going after more than an average player for that kind of money!! I would think?? Go Pack!!

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      Funny, similar thing is going on with the Giants and Hakeem Nicks. he wants a huge contract next year and knows it won’t be from the Giants. He’s obviously dogging it, which as you say, is pretty stupid if you want another team to be impressed.

      I don’t thing Raji is dogging it, he just “is what he is.”

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  4. Big T says:

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

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    • Archie says:

      Right on! Only an ass-clown for a GM would offer this guy $8MM/yr. What? You say our GM offered him exactly that?! Unreal.

      Even Bob McGinn called TT an ass-clown today if he continues to fail to pursue unrestricted free agents. We need two top defensive signings and a top draft pick or two on defense to give this team hope in 2014. Getting rid of fat contracts like Raji, Hawk and Williams would be a good start. Pickett and Finley helps as well. Put that money to work on fixing this defense. The problem in GB may be coaches and players (read TT) but it is not coaches alone. Dreadful players playing dreadfully. Git-R-Done ass-clown or prepare to be relegated to the dust bins of history.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

    Let him walk. Keep Jolly and Pickett for another year or two if it’s cheap.

    Starters in 2014:

    Jolly/Pickett/Jones

    Nickel:
    Jones/Daniels

    Rotational players:
    Boyd/Wilson (or a rook)

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    • Razer says:

      Based on his play, letting Raji walk doesn’t hurt us in the trenches other than our depth. But we need to strengthen this line not simply field the bodies. Boyd may continue to develop and that will help. Wilson is a body, not particularly athletic or talented. We can’t hope to be a top ten defense with this D-line. We need two more faster, stronger linemen if we want to move forward, otherwise we slip back.

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    • Dan "FireMMNow" Blakley FireMMNow says:

      Do not forget about Worthy.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

      • wim says:

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

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        • roflcopter says:

          So nice to see fans buying into the Packers’ draft-and-develop system. Apparently if you aren’t an overnight success, you are a bust.

          Worthy was great last season until he got hurt and he’s been on IR this season. So yeah, he’s shown nothing. I suppose Aaron Rodgers was a bust for the first three years he was here because he didn’t start any games at all, huh?

          Perfect example: I’m pretty sure all the people saying Mike Neal was a bust for the last two years aren’t saying that anymore. So have some patience.

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

          • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

            You’re 100% right to say he deserves more time to develop, but you’re wrong to say Worthy was “great” during the time he did play.

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          • grampa40 says:

            Worthy is so-so at best. If Datone doesn’t develop into something soon we’ll be talking bust here also

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        • funcrusher says:

          I’m so sick of people writing off players after one year in the league. It’s like if a guy isn’t a Pro Bowler his rookie year, you’re ready to take him out back and give him the Old Yeller treatment.

          Daniels had 2 sacks his rookie year. Worthy had 2.5, and Datone has 3.5. Why would you think they’re not gonna take the next step like Daniels did?

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          • Worthy showed little to nothing last year and has been injured this year. Too early to call him a bust. D. Jones at least has flashed a few times, but has been a bit disappointing.

            Remember, the NFL has a salary cap. Developing is all well and good, but 2nd rounders have to be starting level good players by their 3rd season. Worthy is a bust if he can’t start next year. I don’t care whether he develops in his 4th or 5th season, that is too late.

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            • grampa40 says:

              Datone is a #1 pick. He needs to perform like one.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

              • Archie says:

                He is. He is every bit as good as AJ Hawk, BJ Raji and Nick Perry. And he’s better than than J Harrell. Your problem is you just don’t like the defensive players our GM selects in the 1st round. Or, in the case of Worthy, the 2nd round. Join a long line of true Packer fans who see this GM as an ass-clown. It is between GB and DAL for the worst defense in the league and at least DAL has the excuse of having lost their entire DL to injury the same year they switch from 3-4 to 4-3. What’s our excuse? Teddy likes his defensive players “soft” and teddy bears!

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  6. J204 says:

    Maybe Raji was content after winning the SB? He sure wasn’t the same player the next year after the title.. I also think he is too heavy and now has worn out due to his weight and lack of conditioning.

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  7. Alex Parkhurst says:

    Two Things

    1) I don’t see game film so wondering if he is being double teamed more?

    2) The game has changed over the years, but when you see the average nose guard and tackles that look as if they have been eating way too many donuts, I am wondering whether some team might just the paradigm and say I want 6′ 4” 270/285 pound guys rather than 6’1” 360 pound guys. If it is a goal line situation I understand the 350 pound guys, but not the rest of the time. I believe this will happen one day but it probably won’t be the Packers.

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  8. Alex Parkhurst says:

    That should be “change the paradigm”

    Website could you an edit or preview function.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  9. Nopainnogain says:

    Yea I would be surprised to see Raji back with the team next year unless he takes a huge pay cut. He hasn’t been contributing any more than cheaper options like Jolly, Wilson, and Daniels, and that’s not even counting the high picks invested in Jones and Worthy. I used to think Raji could at least replace aging Pickett in the middle, but he hasn’t shown he can hold the point of attack at all. Spend a couple mil on Jolly and/or Wilson and let Raji seek his fortune elsewhere. Hopefully we can squeeze a couple more yrs out of Pickett

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  10. Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

    If a player on a team is playing to the level of Raji,where is the benefit to keep him even ‘if’ he takes a huge contract cut…you still have a wasted spot on the roster.If the level of play dictates that kind of salary cut…just let the player go and spend the savings elsewhere.

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    • Nopainnogain says:

      that’s true. at the same time it is hard to give up on a high pick if you get a low price. it’s not like Raji has always been a scrub in the nfl. The other DE’s are passable, but none of them are studs except for maybe Daniels and he is situational at this point. I don’t think Pickett has much left in the tank either

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

    • It’s like buying something on sale just because it’s on sale. Sure, you’re “saving money,” but it’s probably something you don’t need anyway, so in reality you’re just losing money.

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      • Bedroske says:

        Like the people that say, “I just saved 40% by buying this ____.”

        Ummm, no, you just spent ____ by being suckered into buying something you’ll never use!

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      • Nopainnogain says:

        I’m not saying re-sign everybody. my point is, whoever they get at DE is probably gonna cost $1-2 mil, so if Raji would accept that I’d probable go with him instead of Wilson/Jolly because he has greater upside though they’ve all been about the same this year.

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      • White92 White92 says:

        Can you explain this to my wife??

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. Sportspack says:

    Raji appears to be playing to not get injured. He constantly seems to end up at the side of a play rather than involved in the tackle. He will still get a large contract from a team looking for a space-eating tackle.

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    • Archie says:

      Very true. Look at the only players not injured this year: Raji, Hawk, Jennings and Williams. What do they all have in common? They all suck? They do not give up their bodies to make plays ala Woodson, Nick Collins, CMIII, Cullen Jenkins etc. They like being on the field and collecting a paycheck but they are always in reverse when there is a tackle to be made.

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  12. grizzlymitch says:

    What happened is simple. Raji wanted more money and now he thinks he will get it somewhere else. He hasn’t earned a nickel since they offered him $8 million. Maybe he and Capers can strike a tandem deal somewhere else. Good riddens.

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    • Razer says:

      I hate to think that, but is sure seems to fit the scenario. Either way he has hurt himself and the team

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  13. Since '61 says:

    No reason to keep Raji. Time to move on. His poor play has hurt the run defense badly. Teams can run right through him and take out our ILB’s. This is why teams are averaging 5,6,7 yards per carry against us. Granted we need better ILBs and a safety who can hit, but it starts with the DL and Raji is letting the team down. Time to go. Thanks, Since ’61

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    • Archie says:

      Raji to Hawk/Jones to Jennings/Burnett. Whatever happened to being strong up the middle? Pack will give up a 40 burger today to Steelers.

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  14. Rymetyme81 says:

    I like the theory that his #1 goal right now is to avoid injury. That would explain why he isn’t powering into OL scrums to bust up running plays. Glad he turned down the $8M, he will get $5/yr from another team if he’s lucky.

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  15. Im not sure i would have given 8, probably only 6 about month ago (when we made offer)-my guess is he thinks he is worht like 10 mil (probably agent influence) saying he should be make the new record for highest paid DL. So now in protest, and to protect himself for next contract, he is playing to not get hurt.
    I also agree with , i think 14 FA next yr, we have many more better investments. Shields for one should be getting in the 8mil area, at least he gives the effort.Williams will take pay cut probably plus with no worry about giving Finley another 8-10 mil( if we let him play for us again it will be cheap incentive ladened contract), we can re-sign just about anyone we want from our group of FA. Let Raji walk get comp pick next yr for him.In fact as a sign of good embassadorship i would give jolly a little more than he is making next yr (renegotiate contract for next yr)i think he earned it.Again make it incentive based.get good NT and TE early in draft next yr with later rounds a Safety (rd 3-4) and WR we are good. Also just for heck of it, i would take a 2nd tall athletic TE later in draft for developement.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  16. Dan "FireMMNow" Blakley FireMMNow says:

    I was glad Raji turned down that deal. He has made some impact plays, but he is not an elite guy. He is not Vince Wilfor or Haloti Gnata. He plays with too much finesse too often. I remember a game a couple weeks ago where he tried to sidestep a fullback in the hole. He had over a 100lbs on the fullback. That should be a gimme play for Raji. Knock the FB on his ass and make the tackle for a loss. You are not CM3, you are a massive beast of a human being. Play like it. He is replaceable. If he is playing soft in a contract year, I have visions of Cleditus Hunt after the new contract is signed.

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  17. Russell says:

    I watched the Dallas game several times. I looked at games that i recorded from 2010. I feel certain that Raji is playing not to get hurt. The effort difference is striking from then until now. I would bench the guy now, because he’s already checked out.

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  18. Big T says:

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

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  19. Scheny Schen says:

    Pickets done as well. Next year, before draft we will have Wilson, Jolly, Jones, Boyd, Daniels and Worthy. Jolly and Wilson I believe are both free-agents that I think will get resigned. Figure TT to grab at least one more big body in the draft. GoPack!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Archie says:

      Jolly may be finished too. 31 years old with a bulging disc, if not herniated, at C-5. Worthy in do or die year as a bust. Pack may need to add two DL in 2014 and they better both be ready to play as 2-way (run/pass) types. Given that TT has yet to find one such player in 9 years what is likelihood he will find two in next 6 months? Slim and none? Another year of weak DL, weak ILB and weak S and 40-39 games straight ahead. TT the ass-clown is unable to do anything about it. As a drafter at defense, and molder of a defensive roster, he is completely impotent with four exceptions: Woodson (UFA 2006), Pickett (UFA 2006), Collins (R2 – 2005), CMIII (R1 2009). That’s not much to show for 9 years. After this season ends, only one of those players likely remains a Packer. TT has got himself into a pickle with Shields now as well. W/o sweetening the offer before this year, his asking price has probably doubled from #4MM/yr to $8MM/yr. The ass-clown has no choice but to pay him or watch his defense be even more pathetic. No top CBs in draft either. Does he do the right thing by cutting Williams and giving Shields his payday? Probably not. We could be looking at Williams and Hayward at the corners next year with Hayward moving inside in the nickel/dime with House playing outside. Bush would be dime while Hyde and Burnett = safeties. That would be the path of an ass-clown in charge.

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  20. John says:

    Raji’s PFF grades since 2009, -4.8, 15.1, -20.8, 6.5 and -12. 2010 was great and 2012 was good. The rest, not worth much. I wouldn’t invest much in him.Daniels is the only Packer D-Lineman having a dominant year, per PFF, Raji has the worse grades of all of them. I do think that Capers version of the 3/4 where the D-line is more passive, IE: not penetrating but just taking up blocks shouldn’t invest much in any D Lineman. Now if the Pack went to the type of 3/4 other teams play like Pittsburgh, a star D-Lineman is more important. I wonder if Raji would excel more in a more aggressive 3/4 role.

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  21. marpag says:

    I agree that Raji hasn’t been playing well, and probably doesn’t deserve a big contract from anyone right now.

    Having said that, however, I don’t think there is much we can say about the contract that the Packers offered a while ago. Even if it’s true that it was “8M per year”, no one can really judge a contract without seeing the details. How much of that money was guaranteed? What was the signing bonus? How much of the total was from performance based escalators? How much was backloaded into voidable years? If we don’t have the answers to those questions, we can’t really judge it.

    Also, I think Raji would be better if he played nose tackle rather than end, but I suppose that’s debatable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  22. tim says:

    Unless its injury or other unknown factor causing the lack of production, why would they resign him for any amount. Unless he takes a cut, let him go. Draft some nose tackle or an udfa would be just as good. Is he any better than josh Boyd?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  23. Slim11 says:

    Raji’s play reminds me of CB Mike McKenzie who talked and played his way out of GB. Ryan Longwell did a similar thing and wound up in purple.

    Raji seems content to play in such a way he’s not in GB next season. Having Drew Rosenhaus as his agent doesn’t say much for Raji, either.

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    • Archie says:

      Rosenhaus and TT supposedly despise each other. And Rosey is the agent for both Raji and Shields. Not difficult to see where this is going.

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  24. White92 White92 says:

    Raji was manhandled in the playoff game in SF last year as well.

    Sad to say, but it may be time for him to go.

    I will always remember the pick and dance in the NFC Championship game. Teach me to Raji!

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  25. grampa40 says:

    It’s time to let Raji go. We need a player with a JJ watt style motor. A little mean streak wouldn’t hurt either!

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