Raji Gets Another Year to Prove His Worth

Raji (Benny Sieu - USA Today Sports)

B.J. Raji, whose declining production meant he didn't get a big-time offer in free agency, settled on a one-year, prove-it contract to return to Green Bay.

The longer B.J. Raji remained available on the free-agent market, the more likely it became that he'd have to accept a one-year contract somewhere.

That somewhere was Green Bay.

The Packers signed Raji, the team announced on Friday. It did not mention the terms of the deal but it's likely the one-year offer worth $4 million that's been on the table since before the start of free agency.

Raji's yo-yo career career saw him hit highs in 2010 (6.5 sacks as the Packers won the Super Bowl) and 2012 (when he was one of the league's better run defenders) and lows in 2011 and 2013. Now, Raji will attempt to do in 2014 what he couldn't do in 2013: play his way into a long-term, big-money contract.

"It comes with the territory, man," Raji said late in the year when asked if he was disappointed with his play. "You put up good numbers early in your career, and then when those things dwindle down it's like, 'What happened?' It's more to the game than sacks. Since I've been here, we've been top of the league in sacks and that's what's more important to me. Individual stuff will come. ... I'm older now and I understand that part of being a good teammate is understanding what is required of you."

Raji, the second of the team's first-round picks in 2009, has been highly durable, having missed just two games in the past four seasons. His 70 games (including playoffs) in the past four seasons ranks second among NFL defensive linemen. He's been unselfish, too, hardly complaining about a scheme that limits his pass-rushing opportunities and a move from nose tackle to defensive end in 2011 that seemed to take his career off the rails a bit.

Still, the impact plays have been few and far between. He hasn't recorded a sack since Nov. 24, 2011, at Detroit — a span of 39 consecutive games.

In 2013, he had 36 tackles by the coaches' count, which matched his career low (2009) and was significantly less than his four-year average of 47.8. Overall, he ranked 43rd out of the 45 3-4 defensive ends who played 25 percent of the snaps, according to ProFootballFocus.com. He ranked 39th in PFF's run-stop percentage metric, which measures impact tackles, after ranking 12th in 2012.

In terms of rushing the passer, by the Packers' count, he had three quarterback hits in 2013, seven in 2012 and 10 in 2011 after his breakout season of 13 in 2010. He ranked 42nd in PFF's pass-rushing productivity statistic, which measures sacks and pressures per pass-rushing snap, after checking in at 14th in 2012.

Raji gives the Packers five defensive linemen under contract, with C.J. Wilson, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly also free agents.

With Raji presumably going back to nose tackle, the Packers could look to fortify their defensive linemen with ends Letroy Guion and Vance Walker, both of whom reportedly are scheduled to make free-agent visits.

Update: Walker signed a three-year deal with the Chiefs worth up to $13 million, including $3.75 million guaranteed, according to a source.


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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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