Whither the Freezer?
By Jordan Huenink
If I asked you for your favorite B.J. Raji moment, chances are pretty good that you would remember back to his lumbering, 17-yard pick six against the Bears in the 2011 NFC Championship game. And the subsequent dance, of course. But chances are also good that you wouldn’t be able to find a memorable moment from him since then. And no, his State Farm commercial doesn’t count. [Editor's note: I'd say this, because ALL THE FAT MAN TOUCHDOWNS.]
Going into the 2014 free agency season, the Packers have four defensive linemen who could be on their way out – Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson and B.J. Raji. Of the four, it seems like Raji could be the one most likely packing his bags come mid-March.
After tallying 9.5 sacks between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Raji has not gotten to the quarterback once since then – a streak that spans 37 games. He also seems hit-or-miss in the Dom Capers 3-4 scheme, which has essentially turned him into a two-down lineman given the team’s depth. In 2013 he managed a stat line of only 12 solo tackles despite starting every game.
Add to that the surprising play of second year tackle Mike Daniels (6.5 sacks in 2013), the durability of veteran Ryan Pickett and the inspiring run defense of Johnny Jolly, and Raji seems to be on the outside looking in.
And then there’s the whole money thing.
Even though he was set to make $4.49 million in 2013, Raji reportedly turned down an $8 million per year offer from the Packers last summer, making it clear that he wanted to test the waters of free agency and land with a team that would give him more freedom to attack the quarterback. But after his lackluster 2013, chances of him fetching those numbers from drooling suitors are slim. Some say his value has dropped to between $4 million and $6 million.
Hitting Raji with the franchise tag is also out of the question for the Pack since that number increased to $9.182 million in 2014 for defensive tackles, which is more than they offered him in the first place and also totals the cap space the Packers carry over from 2013.
It seems like the only way the Packers would pursue big #90 for the future would be if they let Pickett walk and re-sign Raji for less than the $8 million they originally offered him. Whether Raji accepts that lower number or not will obviously depend on the other offers he has on the table.
As a team desperately in need of defensive playmakers – and especially ones who can pressure the opposing quarterback - it will be interesting to see who Ted Thompson targets to re-sign at this position.