I am sure that B.J. Raji is probably kicking himself about now.
The Packers’ fifth-year defensive lineman was offered an $8 million contract in the middle of last season but defiantly turned it down.
And now, Green Bay is low-balling their one-time Pro Bowler with a one-year $4 million offer. Ted Thompson knows that a prove-it contract is the perfect situation for a guy that, despite playing out of position, was nearly invisible on the football field.
Thompson has also realized that if Raji has already turned down $8 million, how much more would other teams be willing to risk when the free agency signing period begins on Tuesday at 3 p.m.?
Raji is an interesting study because in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense, he needs an anchor up front. He needs someone that will eat a blocker or two and clear a path for the linebackers. You could almost call him a defensive fullback.
But here’s the rub with Raji: the rest of the starting defensive line are also free agents. Ryan Pickett will turn 35 next season and has lost a few steps. His career high for tackles was 48 in 2005 and last year he tallied 19. Mike Neal is interesting because he’s so versatile. He was tied for third on the team with five sacks and he did it as a defensive end and an outside linebacker.
Raji hasn’t done much to impress anyone the last two seasons — 29 tackles and zero sacks. But there are teams that would be willing to dig a little deeper into the wallet just because he’s a large human being and there aren’t a lot of those to go around.
Thompson is doing the right thing with the low-money offer. I was astonished when he offered $8 million this year and I was even more astonished when Raji turned it down.
It’s hard to believe that Raji was taken as the ninth overall pick in 2009. He clearly has motivation issues if you cannot get charged up to play in the NFL — in a contract year. You hate to label a guy as a bust before he has even turned 30, but Raji doesn’t really give anyone a lot to work with. The one Pro Bowl season and the interception return for a touchdown that put the Packers in the Super Bowl are his career highlights. At best, he’s a work-in-progress and at worst he’s a big oops.