Free Agent Ball's Back in Raji's Court

Raji (Jeff Hanisch - USA Today Sports)

B.J. Raji is mulling what we reported last week: A short-term contract offer to stay with the Packers. Will the inconsistent Raji bet on himself or will he see what other teams have to offer?

Will B.J. Raji bet on himself by signing a one-year contract with the Green Bay Packers?

Or will he see what the free-agent market offers, once the negotiating period begins on Saturday?

ESPN.com's Adam Schefter on Thursday said the Packers and Raji are close to agreeing on a one-year contract.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, however, said a deal is not close.

In either case, the reports are in line with what Packer Report was the first to report last week: that the team wanted to retain Raji on a short-term deal — for one or two seasons.

"It would be how one defines 'close,'" a source told Packer Report on Thursday. "Lots of discussion going on."

Raji, the first of the Packers' two first-round pick in 2009, has had an up-and-down career. In 2010, he was a force as the Packers fielded a dominant defense that propelled the franchise to a Super Bowl championship. Using ProFootballFocus.com's metrics of the top players at his position who received 25 percent playing time:

— In 2010, Raji ranked 28th out of 77 defensive tackles (3-4 and 4-3 schemes) overall and was 11th in stops (impact tackles).

— In 2011, Raji ranked 88th out of 88 defensive tackles overall and tied for 74th in stops.

— In 2012, Raji played predominantly defensive end. Out of 34 defensive ends (3-4 scheme only), Raji ranked seventh overall and 18th in stops, even without registering a sack.

— In 2013, Raji ranked 43rd out of 45 defensive ends (3-4 scheme only) and tied for 30th in stops. He ranked as the Packers' most-overpaid player.

The Journal Sentinel reported that Raji turned down a long-term offer of $8 million per season at some point last season. When Raji's standard of play waned, the Packers pulled that offer from the table.

Now, the ball's back in Raji's court. Does he take a one-year deal, in hopes that a big 2014 will land him the lucrative long-term deal that he covets? Or does he wait to see what free agency holds? Players and teams can begin negotiating on Saturday and contracts can be signed beginning at 3 p.m. (Central) on Tuesday.

For all the talk — talk that coach Mike McCarthy shot down at the Scouting Combine — about the Packers wanting to go with a leaner, more athletic defensive front next season, at some point football still comes down to stopping the run. A motivated Raji who is on top of his game would provide that vital run-stopping presence.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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