Is B.J. Raji's Career In Green Bay Over?

A look at what it would take for the Packers to re-sign free agent nose tackle B.J. Raji

Welcome to the NFL offseason, Packers fans!  Now that we've gotten through our annual round of report cards (good job, team!) it's time to start looking ahead to the Green Bay Packers 2016 season.  I thought I'd start with what was already some low-hanging fruit in discussing the future of free agent nose tackle B.J. Raji.  With last Friday's news that the Packers have re-signed Letroy Guion to a multi-year deal (three years, $11.25 million), that fruit is now even lower.  

The question of whether the Packers should bring back Raji, Guion or both has already been debated quite a bit among Packers circles.  We now know that Guion will be back but prior to his signing, it seemed as though there was more clamoring for the return of Raji.  Some of this was likely due to the fact that he is a former first-round and top-ten overall pick of the Packers.  He's been in this defensive system for seven seasons and many hold out hope that Raji can somehow return to his 2010 form when he registered 6.5 sacks and was a very disruptive force in the middle of the Packers defense.  Since that season, however, Raji has 3.5 total sacks.  Nose tackle stats are often tough to gauge on their own merit because of what they're asked to do in a typical 3-4 defense.  Clog the middle, hold at the point of attack and clear space for your linebackers to penetrate and blow up the run or get to the quarterback.  In other words, a lot of grunt work.  

So let's look at some of the basics and numbers on Raji.  He missed all of 2014 with a biceps injury after having signed a one-year deal in hopes of landing a bigger pay day the following season.  The unfortunate injury allowed Green Bay to re-sign Raji in 2015 to another one-year deal for a very modest $1.75 million with a $500,000 signing bonus.  Raji had 13 solo tackles and one-half sack on the season in 15 games.  Those totals are about on par with the three other seasons since 2010, save for three sacks in 2011.  So what does this production equate to, in terms of Raji's projected value on the upcoming open market?

In looking at a few other true nose tackles around the league, we may get a better idea.  Terrance Knighton signed a one-year deal with Washington in 2015 and counted $4 million against the cap.  He had one more sack than Raji, but overall his stats were about the same.  Kansas City's Dontari Poe racked up more tackles and had a forced fumble this past season and the Chiefs chose to pick up his fifth-year option worth just over $6 million.  Poe is also three years younger than Raji, who will turn 30 this summer (Guion turns 29).  Lastly is Buffalo's Kyle Williams.  Williams turns 33 this year and missed half of the 2015 season, but in looking at his average over the past few seasons, he averages over twice as many tackles and around five sacks per season.  It's not the best comparison, as Buffalo has had a lot of talent on their defense, especially the line with Marcel Dareus and Mario Williams along side Kyle Williams, but there aren't a lot of others to throw into the mix.  Williams is set to count $8 million against the cap in 2016.  That could put Raji around the $4 million per season mark in 2016 and for a year or two after.

That figure isn't out of the question for Green Bay to entertain when you consider that they'll probably be around $20 million under the salary cap once the new cap figure is announced.  It's more a matter of what general manager Ted Thompson is willing to pay for another interior lineman who is obviously going to split time with Guion.  Guion will average just over $3 million per season so it would seem unlikely that the Packers would pay more for Raji right now.  With Mike Daniels already re-signed and Datone Jones entering the final year of his rookie deal, the Packers have to consider how much they want to invest in their defensive front now.  They have Mike Pennel locked up for this year at $600,000 and with a draft class deep at the defensive line, can turn in that direction to add depth.  They'll have to decide if they're going to bring Josh Boyd back and they also have Christian Ringo and William Campbell sitting on the practice squad.  

The Guion signing now, to me, says the Packers will likely let Raji test free agency.  He played well in 2015 so it wouldn't be surprising to see a team jump on Raji early on but he saw very little interest on the open market two years ago prior to his season-ending injury and he's now 30.  If he ends up back in Green Bay due to little interest elsewhere, the Packers may be able to solidify the middle of their line for quite a bargain.  If Raji can be had at a price similar to this past season, the Packers would be foolish not to bring him back.  

From the comments that Raji has made about his lack of conversations with the Packers and Guion's signing (Raji was very supportive, stating it was "well deserved"), it's clear that the Packers have other priorities right now during the offseason.  They have other pending free agents to consider, such as Casey Hayward, Nick Perry and James Starks, to name a few and there's always unrestricted free agency, but we all know better than to dive too deeply in the waters of that discussion.  For now, don't expect any movement on Raji.

In the event that we've seen the last of the big guy from Boston College in a Packers uniform, I thought it appropriate to remember Raij's biggest moment in his career in Green Bay.  Enjoy!

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (22)

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DukeDivine's picture

February 15, 2016 at 10:21 am

I hope not. He adds talented depth to the d-line rotation. I hope he signs for the right price for a 3 year deal. Nice to have fresh legs in the trenches and this year the d-line was a strength. I'd like to see them attempt to keep it intact as possible with cap friendly deals.

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TarynsEyes's picture

February 15, 2016 at 10:26 am

I belive the strength of the trench comes first and more so on defense. However, this coming season may need to depend more from the back side as the front is in need of growth since Raji ' s play doesn't dictate a bid war as a FA nor is it so far above that of another, as mentioned in the article,couldn't equal or perhaps offer more with on field growth, thus allowing the retaining of one more beneficial at another position.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 15, 2016 at 10:27 am

I would love to see Raji back. He makes our DL better. He is at his best playing right over the center.

It would appear that his return is probably more unlikely then likely. By them resigning Guion, and having Pennel, also with the deepest position in the draft being DL, I can see them moving on from Raji.

I hope he returns, but won't be surprised if he doesn't.

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zoellner25's picture

February 15, 2016 at 11:13 am

Raji makes a few plays every now and then, and I emphasize the word few. He just doesn't show up enough. Daniels, Pennel, Guion all more impactful players. I say bye bye.

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Packer_Pete's picture

February 15, 2016 at 11:29 am

If I had to choose between Raji and Guion then there is no question, Raji is way better. Having said that, I think Ted did roll the dice and that's it. With the DL draft being deep, I don't think Raji will be back...

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Bearmeat's picture

February 15, 2016 at 11:57 am

You have to think he's gone. GB goes cheaper and younger with Guion. You've got to think Pennell and Guion are the NT tandem next year - and they draft a 5 Tech in the first 2 days of the draft, unless they think Ringo is the answer opposite Daniels. Because we know it ain't D Jones.

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dobber's picture

February 15, 2016 at 01:27 pm

I don't agree with you very often, but in this case (the ILBs) I do. Good play in the trenches makes a big difference for the ILBs.

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 16, 2016 at 05:52 am

"think of all the good ilb's in the league". Is there one besides Kuechly?

There are not 100s of Rajis in the world.

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D Ernesto's picture

February 18, 2016 at 04:45 pm

To me the pack lack an outside pass rush that mathews wont solve.

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cuervo's picture

February 15, 2016 at 01:43 pm

I agree cow, Raji is "just a guy". Guion at least has the versatility to play two positions. Only way I'd sign Raji is for the Vets minimum and see if he could make the team.

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JerseyAl's picture

February 15, 2016 at 01:49 pm

Raji is not a guy who plays for the love of the game. Motivation has always been an issue. Back in college, he required the most "kicks in the ass" to get him playing hard than anyone else on the team - this according to a former coach there. You see the inconsistency at the Pro level from game to game. When he's feeling it, he can be one of the best NTs. But then there are the games where you seem him getting bounced around and moved back off the line, I let him walk and let someone who plays hungry come in and take his snaps...

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 16, 2016 at 05:55 am

I fail to understand this logic. A lot of NFL players do not love the game. See Arian Foster's recent comments. It's a job to them. That doesn't keep those players from producing.

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JerseyAl's picture

February 15, 2016 at 01:49 pm

Raji is not a guy who plays for the love of the game. Motivation has always been an issue. Back in college, he required the most "kicks in the ass" to get him playing hard than anyone else on the team - this according to a former coach there. You see the inconsistency at the Pro level from game to game. When he's feeling it, he can be one of the best NTs. But then there are the games where you seem him getting bounced around and moved back off the line. I let him walk and let someone who plays hungry come in and take his snaps...

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D Ernesto's picture

February 18, 2016 at 04:50 pm

My take he spends too much time on his face

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egbertsouse's picture

February 15, 2016 at 02:24 pm

He has a few good games and then disappears for long stretches. I agree with those who say he's just a guy. Get him cheap or let him walk. If he walks, no big deal.

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dobber's picture

February 15, 2016 at 03:15 pm

IMO, the only compelling reason to keep him is to put off tending the DL through the draft. There are only so many positions you can address at a time. If you've got the cap space and you can get him on a one-year deal (much like this season), I don't see why not. This allows TT to push his draft picks towards other needs: OL, OLB/ILB, TE, for example. Whatever the case, I don't see Raji signing a contract with the Packers until after the draft.

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denniseckersley's picture

February 15, 2016 at 03:43 pm

That play is one of the biggest in the history of the franchise and it is easily my favorite.

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WinUSA's picture

February 15, 2016 at 04:27 pm

Bring back Jolly!!!!!! :9)

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Since'61's picture

February 15, 2016 at 06:41 pm

Save the money on Raji and put it towards signing a real TE or ILB. Thanks, Since' 61

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NickPerry's picture

February 16, 2016 at 06:59 am

Exactly Since '61. They could get a pretty decent TE or ILB for the money they'd pay Raji. Maybe another option would be Terrence Knighton but a TE or ILB would be ideal.

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AgrippaLII's picture

February 16, 2016 at 09:31 pm

I've always pulled for BJ to make it back but this past season he was injured again...an ankle I think. It limited his snap count and his effectiveness when he did manage to get on the field. With the resigning of Guion to a 3 yr. contract it looks like BJ is on his way out...If TT selects an early round DT in the draft BJ is done.

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TommyG's picture

February 17, 2016 at 02:41 am

He will probably come back on another 1 year contract.

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