There appears to be no end in sight for B.J. Raji's holdout.
Raji, the ninth overall pick who is slated to start at left defensive end, missed his fifth practice on Tuesday morning and figures to miss a sixth practice on Tuesday night.
Backing up conventional wisdom, a source told Packer Report that the major hang-up is the holdout of the man drafted behind him, San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree.
Crabtree and his agent believe the former Texas Tech standout is worth top-five money, based on where he would have been drafted had he not been injured during the scouting process. That's important because as the player taken ahead of Crabtree, Raji will want more money. So, a long holdout could be brewing if the 49ers and Crabtree don't end their stalemate quickly.
How long? Potentially very long when you're dealing with this huge gap in money. Last year's fifth pick, Kansas City defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, signed a five-year deal worth a minimum of $33 million, with $22.5 million guaranteed. The 10th pick, New England linebacker Jerod Mayo, signed a five-year deal worth $18.9 million, with $13.8 million guaranteed. The separation is huge, considering Dorsey's guaranteed money is worth more than Mayo's entire contract.
"If I had the answer to that, he'd probably be signed," general manager Ted Thompson said when asked point-blank why Raji isn't signed. "I don't know. I think the higher you get in the rounds, certainly the first-round guys, there's a little more complications and a little bit more wondering what the other fellas are going to do. But we're working at it. Russ (Ball, the Packers' vice president of football administration) and Dave (Dunn, the agent) talk all the time. Everybody's trying to do the right thing, and we'll get it worked out."
The big-picture question is, how much time can Raji miss yet still be a big factor this season? Not only is Raji expected to start at end, but he was expected to be with the first-team nickel defense as an inside rusher and back up Ryan Pickett at nose tackle.
"I've always felt this way: A big part of our job is if a guy has ability, we have to figure out how he can do efficiently," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "Might cut things down somewhat. You can't set your team back, but there might be certain things that he'll be able to do right away."
Even before the holdout, Capers and the coaching staff were being wary to not put too much on Raji's plate, because football is about quick actions and reactions and that process is stymied by overthinking. That will be a bigger issue when Raji finally arrives, but Capers isn't losing much sleep over it.
"It's a lot of years for me," he said. "When a guy's not here, any energy I exert concerning myself about that is just going to be wasted energy. He was here for all of the offseason stuff and appeared to be a smart guy. Really work hard at it. When he gets here, we'll go to work."
In all, nine first-round picks remain unsigned, including No. 3 Tyson Jackson (Kansas City), No. 4 Aaron Curry (Seattle), No. 6 Andre Smith (Cincinnati), No. 8 Eugene Monroe (Jacksonville), No. 9 Raji, No. 10 Crabtree, No. 11 Aaron Maybin (Buffalo) and No. 12 Knowshon Moreno (Denver).
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.