The Green Bay Packers have a number of important free agent decisions to make this offseason, but one of the most important ones will be whether or not to re-sign B.J. Raji.
Raji was once thought to be a cornerstone of the Green Bay defense. But after a failed experiment at defensive end and a season-ending injury in 2014, Raji’s career hit a standstill.
Yet after accepting a one-year $1.75 million deal from the Packers to play in Green Bay for 2015, Raji had a bounce back year. However, it was not the kind of year that would cause him to be a major attraction on the free agent market.
Here are the pro and con arguments for keeping him for next season and possibly beyond.
One reason that Raji is an important free agent is that the Packers don’t have anyone on the roster that is capable of replacing him. Letroy Guion is also a free agent and while Mike Pennell has played well at defensive end, he is not a proven commodity.
Raji proved last season that he is still a solid presence inside and can make plays against the run. His ability as an interior pass rusher is limited, but he is still capable of pushing the pocket. This past season he had 22 tackles (three for loss) and half a sack. Not outstanding numbers by any means, but if you watched the games you could see his impact.
Also, because he is 30, the Packers may not have to break the bank to re-sign him, although he will probably cost something in the $4-5 million range — to me it would be worth it.
The biggest con with Raji is his injury history. He was healthy last year for the most part but did miss some time. If he was in his mid-to-late 20’s, I’d feel better about giving him guaranteed money. And make no mistake, he is going to try and get as much as he can. He knows he is not getting many more bites at the apple, so I wouldn’t expect much of a hometown discount.
The other con is that Raji basically offers nothing as a pass rusher, so places a limit on his value. Stopping the run is important and he is very good at that, but who is to say it wouldn’t be better to pay Guion $3 million a year to do essentially the same thing — then draft a guy with starter potential down the road.
Prediction: In the end I think a deal gets done. But I’d put the chances of Raji coming back somewhere around 60/40. I think he wants to be in Green Bay, but wants to get paid too.
We shall see.