Slimmer Raji Gets Fat Deal

First-round draft pick B.J. Raji signed his contract on Friday and discussed the long wait with media. Raji worked out at a local middle school and says he's in good shape.

During his prolonged holdout, first-round draft pick B.J. Raji went back to school.

Middle school.

Before heading back to Boston College to work out with the staff at his alma mater earlier in the week, Raji worked out alone at Bay View Middle School in the Green Bay suburb of Suamico while waiting for a contract to be hammered out. With the occasional astute fan honking a horn, Raji ran gassers and laps and did some drills.

After signing his contract on Friday, Raji said he'd actually lost a couple of pounds from his listed weight of 337. That's good news for the Packers, who need to get Raji ready for the season and don't have time to waste getting their prized draft pick into shape.

"When I do hit it, I'm going to hit it full speed," he told reporters on Friday afternoon.

According to reports confirmed by a Packer Report source, Raji's five-year contract includes $18 million in guarantees. According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Raji will earn the minimum base salary of $310,000 but received a $2.4 million signing bonus and a $1.26 million roster bonus, giving him a total 2009 payday of $3.97 million.

Raji will receive a $7 million option bonus in March — which would void a sixth year of the contract — and get base salaries of $1.962 million in 2010, $2.355 million in 2011, $2.747 million in 2012 and $3.14 million in 2013. That final year will be guaranteed for injury but the Packers would be off the hook if they released him based on poor performance.

All told, the total value is $21.174 million. Incentives and workout bonuses could push the total to about $28.5 million.

With contract talks seemingly going nowhere, Raji left Green Bay on Tuesday. His agent wanted Raji to go to California — agent David Dunn works out of Irvine, Calif. — but Raji decided to head back to the Boston area to work out with his former college coaches.

"B.J., you're not going to be there very long, maybe two or three days, so don't get comfortable there," Raji recalled of a conversation with Dunn. "I kind of laughed, and he was right. I'm happy he was right."

Raji said nobody was to blame for him missing the first 14 practices of training camp, as well as Saturday's night preseason opener against Cleveland. With four first-round picks still unsigned, Raji said: "The draft was a little crazy like that."

Raji said it was "tough" knowing that his future teammates were sweating on the practice field without him. He received encouragement from running back Ryan Grant, who had a contract issue last offseason, as well as several members of the rookie class — a group that included fellow first-rounder Clay Matthews III.

All of the money, Raji insists, means nothing.

"I still have to prove myself, just like other rookies," he said. "I won't get no special treatment or anything like that. Financially, the money is good but football-wise, it doesn't mean too much."

So, now what? With more than half of the training camp practices in the books, only two two-a-days remaining and just six or seven padded workouts remaining (coach Mike McCarthy hasn't decided whether to go full pads on Aug. 24), the bulk of the hard work is complete.

Raji, however, isn't doubting that he'll make an impact as a rookie.

"Definitely not," he said. "I don't think I hurt any chances. I'm an optimistic person. I still have a little less than a month to get ready for our opening game."


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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 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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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