From Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
#Packers NT B.J. Raji has accepted a deal to return to Green Bay, according to a source. Expected to be a one-year deal.
— Tom Silverstein (@TomSilverstein) March 14, 2014
Silverstein later tweeted that Raji's contract was worth $4 million and could include incentives, but exact details have not yet been released. Essentially, Raji accepted a prove-it deal that provides him the opportunity to cash in free agency next season with a big year.
With fellow big-bodied defensive linemen Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly also testing the free agent market, the Packers needed a player capable of playing on run downs to complement the pass rushers on the team like Mike Daniels and Datone Jones.
If Pickett doesn't resign with the Packers--and perhaps even if he does--it's possible a full-time move to nose tackle could be in store for Raji, where he might be a more consistent force for the Packers defense.
Evidence comes in the form of the Packers' Super Bowl season in 2010 when Raji more frequently played the zero-technique position head up on the center, having a career-season with 39 tackles, 6.5 sacks and three passes defensed, not to mention his postseason heroics. His interception return for a touchdown in the NFC Championship win over the Chicago Bears remains Raji's signtature moment.
It was a steep dropoff in production for Raji the most recently completed season when he had just 17 tackles and didn't come up with a single sack. Raji's last sack came in November of 2011.
The argument can be made that Raji could also use a reduction in playing time as part of a heavier rotation that would help him conserve energy and prevent him from wearing down. Raji has played at least 666 snaps in each of the past four season, according to ProFootballFocus.com (premium content).
Where Raji's signings leaves the Packers in their interest of free agent defensive linemen Vance Walker and Latroy Guion is up for speculation. Reports have said both were scheduled to come to Green Bay on visits.
Until they sign elsewhere, it's unlikely the door has been closed on Pickett, Jolly and C.J. Wilson as well.
Skeptics will point to Raji's poor play in 2013 in a contract season as reason to believe little will change this upcoming season, but one big difference could be that Raji overestimated his value on the open market and now knows he won't be able to cash in with another subpar season.
Keeping Raji for another season may also allow the Packers to avoid addressing the nose tackle position early in the draft, thereby freeing them up to add talent at bigger positions of need like safety or linebacker.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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