Packers, Raji ‘Working on Deal’

If a contract comes together, it would take one major item off the Packers' list of draft needs.

Almost two weeks into free agency, not much has changed between the Green Bay Packers and nose tackle B.J. Raji.

Raji remains unsigned but is expected to return to the team that selected him in the first round of the 2009 draft.

A league source on Sunday night said the two sides are “working on a deal” that should keep Raji in Green Bay.

While the source would not discuss the parameters of the contract, it more than likely would be a one-year deal. That’s what Raji signed last offseason after receiving tepid interest in free agency. Raji hoped to parlay one big season into a big contract this offseason. Instead, after being one of the top performers through the first few weeks of training camp, he sustained a torn biceps tendon in the third preseason game. He spent the season on injured reserve but stayed in Green Bay to lend his voice to a defensive line that had moved on without veterans Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly and C.J. Wilson.

"We want all of our guys back, especially our big guys," Packers coach McCarthy said at the spring owners meetings in Phoenix

Raji, who will turn 29 in July, was one of the league’s bright young stars in 2010 (6.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hits) and 2011 (three sacks, 10 quarterback hits). However, his production drastically tapered off in 2012 (no sacks, seven quarterback hits) and 2013 (no sacks, three quarterback hits). He appeared primed for a big bounce-back season after being moved back to nose tackle after a couple seasons playing primarily end in the base 3-4 defense.

If the Packers can retain Raji and Letroy Guion, their entire draft outlook would change. Without one or both, they’d have to dive into a strong but top-heavy group of defensive linemen in hopes of finding someone who could contribute immediately. With both back on the roster, they could select one later in the draft to provide competition and depth.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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