Defensive tackle B.J. Raji missed all of the 2014 regular season after suffering a torn right bicep late in the preseason, which likely played a role in an utter lack of a market for his services since free agency started earlier this month. The Green Bay Packers were considered likely to re-sign Raji all along, and steam picked up on that front on Monday.
That speculation is now official, with Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reporting the Packers and Raji have agreed to a one-year deal worth roughly $3.5 million. Rapoport further reported that Raji can earn up to $4 million next season, but without knowing what the incentives are it’s hard to know if that is completely attainable.
On Monday the Packers also re-signed Letroy Guion, who replaced Raji at nose tackle and had the best season of his career (62 tackles and 3.5 sacks) last year. Discipline from the league is virtually certain after a February arrest on felony marijuana and firearm possession charges, but the Packers protected themselves from Guion’s likely early-season absence by bring Raji back into the fold.
When we last saw Raji, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the worst 3-4 defensive end in the league against the run in 2013. Moving back to nose tackle should put him in a position for better success, even in an eventual part-time role next season when Guion returns from an assumed suspension. But Raji has zero sacks and 45 total tackles in the last 30 regular season games he has played, and he is clearly in decline.
ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky reported on Monday morning the Packers offered Raji a one-year deal worth less than $2 million, and unless there was an unreported team that showed interest they were competing against themselves for the one-time Pro Bowler. It appears the Packers went against their normal grain here, possibly biting the apple of sentimentality and signing Raji for essentially double their original offer. If there was some sort of last-minute bidding war for Raji, another team should have been allowed to win it with no thought otherwise.
By only committing to Raji for one year, the Packers have taken minimal risk overall and they will surely get his best effort as he returns from injury. But his name outweighs his game at this point, and I don’t see Raji making a big impact next season.
Brad Berreman is a Columnist/Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter.