With the start of the NFL Free Agent Frenzy just days away, the Green Bay Packers had been eerily quiet regarding many of their own free agents but that changed today according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who is reporting that the team is close to a one-year deal with defensive lineman B.J. Raji to keep him from becoming a free agent next Tuesday.
Packers and B.J. Raji are close to completing a 1-year deal that will keep the DT in Green Bay and off the free-agent market, per sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 6, 2014
The news may seem a bit surprising and it will be very interesting to see what the money looks like in this deal once it’s completed but after Raji failed to put his best foot forward in a contract year in 2013, it appears he wants another shot to prove himself in 2014 before cashing in on a multi-year deal.
It will be easier to analyze the deal between the two sides when and if it’s completed but assuming at this point it will be consummated, here are a few thoughts from the Packers Guru:
1. This deal reminds me very much of the Jermichael Finley deal following the 2011 season. Finley, like Raji, had disappointed during his contract season and agreed to a two-year deal with the Packers that paid him around $8 million a year but also gave him a chance to prove himself before hitting the market again this offseason. The plan would have worked great had he not been injured, so it makes sense for Raji, who is coming off a season with only 13 tackles and no sacks, to take another shot at a contract year in 2014 with the goal of getting a big money deal next offseason.
2. If the Packers do re-sign Raji, it will be very interesting to see what that means for fellow free agent defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. Pickett, who is 34 years old, has been a reliable presence in the middle of the Packers defense since 2006 and is the only true nose tackle their 3-4 defense has ever known. If Pickett doesn’t return, will the Packers shift Raji back to being primarily a nose tackle or will they play him more at defensive end and allow him to rush the passer more? One would think that Raji would need some type of commitment from the Packers that he be allowed more opportunities to pressure the quarterback, which could help him garner more money in 2015.
3. My final thought is that with Raji back in 2014, the Packers should be fairly set along the defensive line outside of re-signing Pickett or drafting a young nose tackle early in the draft. Even if another player isn’t added, the Green Bay defensive line should be strong in 2014 with Raji, Mike Daniels, Datone Jones and Josh Boyd, giving the Packers four talented, versatile, d-lineman that are all capable of pressuring the quarterback and playing the run. Look for Jones and Boyd to take big leaps in their second season as Daniels did and if they can make that jump, this defensive line could once again be a strength of this Dom Capers 3-4 defense.