Packers, Raji close to 1-year deal

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Green Bay Packers have offered defensive lineman B.J. Raji a short-term deal to keep the unrestricted free agent on their team.

Now they're waiting to see if he takes it before free agency begins.

The Packers offered Raji the options of one- and two-year contracts, a source told the Journal Sentinel. For one year, their offer was for about $4 million.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Thursday that Raji was close to a one-year deal, but sources told the Journal Sentinel the deal is not imminent and there are indications Raji isn't interested in the Packers' offer.

Raji would only want to sign a one-year deal if he thought the long-term offers he received weren't lucrative enough, and there was still time left to shop himself when the NFL free agency signing period begins at 3 p.m. Tuesday. At what point the Packers would move forward without him only general manager Ted Thompson can say.

The Packers can't afford to wait too long because if they lose Raji, they're going to have to figure out an alternative, and the best ones will be gone fairly early in free agency.

The Journal Sentinel reported during the 2013 season that Raji turned down a long-term offer averaging $8 million. That offer contained about $20 million in guaranteed money. Raji chose to play out the season and see if he could do better as a free agent.

After Raji's contract season turned sour, the Packers pulled their offer and determined they would let Raji test his value. His agent, David Dunn, has had several weeks to feel out teams to see how much interest there would be in his client. That's something most agents do and although rules prohibit it, the NFL rarely polices them.

A one-year arrangement for Raji would fill what would be a major hole in the Packers' defensive front. For Raji, 27, it would provide the chance to put up far better numbers in 2014 and seek a more lucrative contract for 2015.

One of the selling points the Packers are using to get Raji to accept their offer is a return to a true nose tackle position, one source said. Raji has played a lot of end and three-technique, the latter a defensive tackle position used mostly in 4-3 defenses.

At nose, Raji would be likely to receive a lot of double teams, but if the Packers can generate enough pressure with their ends, he might see more one-on-ones and have freedom to use his quickness to get upfield. Last season, he was asked to take on double teams and keep blockers off the linebackers behind him more often than in the past.

Coach Mike McCarthy's plan with the defense appears to include using more athletic, nimble players as opposed to 320-plus pounders such as Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly. One source said he was told McCarthy is looking for more players like Datone Jones, Mike Daniels and Josh Boyd, who might give up bulk but add athleticism to the defense.

That does not bode well for the return of Pickett, Jolly and C.J. Wilson, free agents who are all big, run-stuffer types.

But to run that type of defense, McCarthy will want a big man in the middle, and Raji fits that bill. The Raji of 2010, when he was disruptive playing a majority of the time at nose tackle, was far better than the one trying to sell himself on the market.

Several scouts in the last week said Raji didn't push himself last season and forecast a disappointing reception if he was unsigned by the March 11 start of unrestricted free agency.

Raji, 6 feet 1 inches and 335 pounds, ranked last on the defensive line in tackles per snap (one every 16.4) and was fourth in pressures per snap (one every 87.3). In 2010, his best year, he registered a pressure every 32.4 snaps.

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