1

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

4

May

Packers Defensive Line Entering Big Contract Year

Packers defensive linemen Neal, Wilson, and Pickett are all set to become free agents in 2014.

Packers defensive linemen Neal, Wilson, and Pickett are all set to become free agents in 2014.

In the wake of the Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews contract extensions, many of us have been wondering how the Green Bay Packers will utilize their remaining cap space. How they use it will depend a lot on the current players who will be free agency following this season. Not counting the recent restricted free agent tenders and offseason signings, there are a total of fourteen Packers players entering their final year of a multi-year contract.

One of the major concerns, though, is that four of those players – or over a quarter of them – are defensive linemen. And not just any defensive lineman. They accounted for 38 starts, 51 total games played, and 2,108 defensive snaps in 2012. Take a look:

  • Ryan Pickett, DT, 33, 13th yr.
    (2012: 16 starts, 16 games, 658 snaps – 2nd DL, 3.8 PFF grade – 2nd DL)
  • B.J. Raji, DT, 26, 5th yr.
    (2012: 14 starts, 14 games, 768 snaps – 1st DL, 6.5 PFF grade – 1st DL)
  • Mike Neal, DE, 25, 4th yr.
    (2012: 0 starts, 10 games, 323 snaps – 5th DL, 3.4 PFF grade – 3rd DL)
  • C.J. Wilson, DE, 26, 4th yr.
    (2012: 8 starts, 11 games, 359 – 4th DL, -2.1 PFF grade – 6th DL)

Obviously, Pickett and Raji are the two biggest names to be worried about. They are the workhorses of the defensive line and pretty much have been since their first years in Green Bay. Neal and Wilson aren’t every-down players, but they’ve proven their worth and could still show some improvement.

Unfortunately, the contract situations of these players are being pressured by multiple forces. Ted Thompson has drafted four defensive linemen in the past two drafts, who could each be major players: Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, and Josh Boyd. (There’s also Jordan Miller and Gilbert Pena looming in the shadows.) But in addition to the performance pressures, there are also going to be financial ones. Some other big-name players are going to be hitting the market in 2014, as well. Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, James Jones, and Marshall Newhouse are all going into their final contract year, plus Evan Dietrich-Smith and Sam Shields are currently on restricted free agent tenders that last just a year.

1

May

Packers’ Russ Ball Works His Magic With Rodgers, Matthews

 

Green Bay Packers front office masterminds Russ Ball and Ted Thompson.

Green Bay Packers front office masterminds Russ Ball and Ted Thompson.

Despite the Green Bay Packers recently inking two big-time contract extensions for Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, they have only suffered a net loss of . . . wait for it . . . $4.1 million in cap space. They held roughly $17.5 million in cap room prior to the contracts, and yet they still have over $13 million left to work with. And we have one major person to thank for that: Russ Ball.

His official title is Vice President of Football Administration/Player Finance, but that long moniker doesn’t even begin to honor his work (or its worth) for the Packers. According to the team’s official website, “He is responsible for negotiating player contracts and managing the salary cap, in addition to the daily supervision of football-administration departments including athletic training, equipment, video, corporate travel, player development, family programs and public relations.”

What he has accomplished, though, is allowing Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy to do their work without having to worry too much about the financial complications.

He is the wizard behind the curtain, despite being handed praise from the local media. In the early half of 2011, Brian Carriveau of CheeseheadTV examined how Ball’s work helped propel the Packers to their first Super Bowl in 14 years. Bob McGinn added to this praise a few months later with an article about Ball being “a key cog in Packers machine.”

Russ Ball even interviewed under the radar for a general manager position with the New York Jets earlier this year.

It’s not hyperbole to say that, since taking the job with the Green Bay Packers in 2008, Ball has had his biggest contract negotiations to date. Clay Matthews’ 5-year, $66 million contract extension is tops among 3-4 outside linebackers, while Aaron Rodgers now commands the biggest contract among NFL players to date.

Nevertheless, the financial control remains with the Packers organization. Russ Ball has managed to negotiate deals that don’t sacrifice the team’s salary cap for any single player. Even Rodgers’ mega-deal is, at its core, a win-win situation for both sides. Take a look at the numbers below, and you’ll see why:

rodgers_contract_ext

17

April

Packers News: Clay Matthews agrees to contract extension

Packers OLB Clay Matthews

Packers OLB Clay Matthews

Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews has reached an agreement on a contract extension to keep him in Green Bay, according to his Twitter account.

The deal will be a five-year extension worth slightly more than $13 million per season, according to Jay Glazer. Matthews now becomes the highest-paid linebacker in the league, passing DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter had previously reported that Matthews would likely get around $13 million per season.

Coming out of the University of Southern California, Matthews was the 26th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, after the Packers used the No. 9 overall pick on B.J. Raji.

In four seasons with the Packers, Matthews has racked up 42.5 sacks in 58 regular-season games. He registered 13 sacks last season.

Matthews is the first domino to fall in what will likely be multiple blockbuster contract extensions for the Packers this offseason. He shares the same agent (David Dunn) as Raji and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Raji is entering the final year of his contract, and Rodgers is expected to sign an extension that will make him the highest-paid player in NFL history.

This was not a matter of if; it was a matter of when.

And now that Matthews has been locked up for the foreseeable future, the team can focus on putting the finishing touches on an extension for Rodgers. It’s been a quiet offseason for the Packers, but that’s due in large part to these upcoming extensions.

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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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12

April

Packers News: Evan Dietrich-Smith signs one-year deal

Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith

Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith

Evan Dietrich-Smith signed his restricted free agent tender worth $1.323 million, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He’s expected to be the Packers’ starting center next season after Jeff Saturday retired.

Dietrich-Smith, 26, was handed the lowest possible restricted free agent tender with no compensation. If a team wanted to sign him, they simply would have had to make an offer that the Packers couldn’t match.

But that never happened, and Dietrich-Smith will remain in Green Bay next season.

The only restricted free agent to receive an offer sheet is Pittsburgh wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders from New England. The Steelers have a week to match the Patriots’ offer.

Dietrich-Smith is now slated to participate in the Packers’ offseason conditioning program. Green Bay’s other restricted free agent, Sam Shields, has yet to sign his tender worth $2.023 million for the upcoming season.

Now that Dietrich-Smith is in the fold for at least another season, the Packers figure they have their starting center in place. But that doesn’t mean the Packers won’t consider adding a young player at the position relatively early in this month’s draft.

California’s Brian Schwenke or Wisconsin’s Travis Frederick will likely be the first center off the board at some point on Day 2. Alabama center Barrett Jones will likely start 2013 on the PUP list due to medical concerns. He was on the same level as Schwenke and Frederick prior to the medical issues becoming public, but he’s now expected to come off the board on late Day 2 or early Day 3.

——————

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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26

October

Packers News: Goode signs three-year extension

Packers LS Brett Goode

Packers LS Brett Goode

Packers long snapper Brett Goode has signed a three-year extension to stay with the Green Bay Packers through the 2015 season. His previous contract was scheduled to expire following this season.

Goode is currently in his fifth year as the Packers’ long snapper, and he has yet to produce a single “aborted snap” on a field goal, extra point or punt.

And usually, when fans don’t hear the long snapper’s name throughout the course of a game, it’s because the player is doing his job.

According to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Goode’s contract was actually signed Oct. 13; however, it was not announced by the team until today. The contract, according to NFL Players Association salary information, reportedly contains a $325,000 signing bonus, while his base salary for this season remains at $700,000.

Goode’s base salary will rise to $715,000 next season, $730,000 in 2014 and $870,000 in 2015.

So, get used to him Packers fans. The long snapper position is in good–er, Goode–hands.

——————

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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11

May

Packers Draft Picks Starting to Sign Contracts

The Packers have signed DT Jerel Worthy

With rookie camps set to begin today for the Green Bay Packers, it is quite encouraging to see numerous rookies signing contracts before camp starts.

Rob Demovsky at the Green Bay Press-Gazette has reported that three of the Packers’ draft picks signed contracts yesterday.  Those three players were second-round pick Jerel Worthy, fourth-round pick Jerron McMillian and seventh-round selection Andrew Datko.

Each of these three players look to be critical to the future for Green Bay, which makes them being signed and ready for camp even more encouraging.  If that wasn’t enough, it was reported this morning via Casey Hayward’s agent Scott Smith that he had signed a contract this morning.  Hayward is another rookie who will likely see limited playing time as a rookie, but will be a future starter for Green Bay.

The only draft picks that haven’t signed are OLB Nick Perry, DT Mike Daniels, OLB Terrell Manning and QB B.J. Coleman.  However, Demovsky reported earlier in the week that Green Bay is expected to have all draft picks signed by the end of this week.

While this may not be the most exciting of news, the fact that rookies are getting signed early is great for the team.  It also means that real football is closer than we can imagine.

I hope we’re all ready.

Update:

As of late this morning, the Packers are now reporting that all their picks except for OLB Nick Perry have signed with the team.