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.