What’s up with B.J. Raji?


The clock may be ticking for B.J. Raji.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Earlier this week, our own Jason Hirschhorn questioned whether the Packers should pursue a huge contract with Green Bay Packers’ defensive lineman B.J. Raji. He hasn’t been the only writer who has questioned Raji’s overall value to the Green Bay Packers.

Today, Jersey Al Bracco of Jerseyal.com provides with some nifty statistical analysis (courtesy of Pro Football Focus) about Raji’s career numbers and points out the inconsistencies the defensive lineman has given the team over the past three years. In fact, Al asks the simple question, “Warrior or Shrinking Violet?”

While we all would like to think that Raji is the warrior we have seen from time to time, he oftentimes has disappeared from the football landscape.

Last year was a perfect example. We all wondered where he was during the first half of the season, only to have our questions answered in the second half when he reappeared with a vengeance.

Al also asks this important question: “Overall, he graded out as a ‘positive’ in 2012, but now it’s time to get back to my original premise. Did Raji fatten up his numbers against the bad offensive lines to offset poor play against the better lines?”

Hirschhorn had similar thoughts about Raji and whether the Packers would be serious about pursuing a big contract with the lineman. Considering that the Packers will most likely work first on producing extensions for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews, coupled with the fact that the Packers, like all teams, have limited dollars to spread around, Raji may be the odd man out.

Here’s how Hirschhorn addressed that issue:

"As currently constituted, the Packers have about $20 million in cap space. Part of that figure is already earmarked for the incoming rookie class with some space reserved for free agency and emergencies. However, most of that figure will go toward extensions. Next year’s salary cap doesn’t figure to increase very significantly, and with even more contract negotiations coming into view after 2013 – James Jones, Bryan Bulaga, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb chief among them – the Packers already have an idea of which deals they want to pursue and which ones they’ll pass on."

Packers fans love B.J. Raji.

Raymond T Rivard photograph

Could Raji be that player who will be allowed to test the market?

Only Ted Thompson can answer that question, but as we enter this year’s free agency period, it will be interesting to note the dollars that players of Raji’s ilk will command in the open market. You can bet that the Packers are also watching those numbers closely – though things do change from year-to-year.

Hirschhorn says it better than I can:

"Reading the tea leafs, it appears that Green Bay is letting their other extensions decide that question for them. Depending on how much it takes to re-sign Rodgers and Matthews, the Packers will know if a lengthy extension with Raji is reasonable.They don’t want to be caught in a situation where they’ve extended Raji and don’t have enough cap space for either Matthews or Rodgers. Thus, Green Bay has prioritized their negotiations to prevent that scenario."

I don’t think there’s a Packers fan who doesn’t love Raji. He’s an intelligent, funny, and talented young man. However, the dollars and the circumstances may catch up with him and his place with the Packers.

That’s what makes the National Football League such a brutal business. The numbers sometimes overtake the personalities and teams are stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place when developing their rosters.

His performance on the field over the next year will be crucial in determining whether the Packers get serious in signing him to an extension.

We can only hope that his performance matches up with the numbers and that all works out for Raji. It would be great that he will be allowed the opportunity to stay with the team for years into the future.

Time will tell …

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