Packers, B.J. Raji agree to one-year deal, per reports: on making a second last impression [UPDATED]
Most, including us, seemed in agreement at the end of the 2013 season: it was probably defensive lineman B.J. Raji’s last with the Green Bay Packers. There were the reports that he’d turned down an $8 million per year offer at some point mid-season, and there was the underwhelming sample size of ‘13 that suggested this non-deal worked out for the Packers.
As you might’ve heard Raji now sort of infamously hasn’t recorded a sack since 2011. His presence on the field last season many times resembled a seat-filler at an awards show: he was visible but there was nothing of substance to see other than a live body, a large body in a Packers uniform, standing and blending in. He was there but he wasn’t, a visible ghost without an appetite for much haunting. That’s not the way we’d gotten accustomed to seeing his impact left around the line of scrimmage during his first two seasons in the league, which were more like an elephant stepping into fresh mud. Those big steps and deep imprints are why it became and remains one of the weirdest outcomes from a truly bizarre 2013 campaign: what happened to B.J. Raji? Where did he go?
But where there’s the all-too-usual fan anger about an underperforming star, to us Raji’s case never quite had that. People were just confused, wondering what had happened to their favorite jolly dancing devourer of running backs. His popularity surged when he of all players was the one absorbing an interception out of the air and into his stomach and running it in for a touchdown in the 2010 NFC Championship game against the Bears. Then came the hula dance and “Teach Me How to Raji” and the commercials and the blank-staring, goofy sense of humor. Before that, against the Atlanta Falcons, he lined up in the offensive backfield looking to demolish a path to the end zone. He was “The Freezer” after that. Everyone loved him because how couldn’t you? But there was also the production: he and Clay Matthews of the Packers’ 2009 NFL Draft class, the anchors of the defense for years to come.
Then these last two seasons happened and his non-production became difficult to ignore as it became more confounding and hard to accept at the same time that this was happening to a supposed pillar. We believe people still want to love him. We do, because we do.
Anyway, we just figured he’d be lost to free agency. Or rather, not resigned in Green Bay. But then ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Raji and the Packers were close to a one-year deal. After that news it appeared maybe the season when everyone figured we’d see an explosive, urgent Raji was now reset like a dusty Nintendo 64 cartridge frozen on the “Press Start” screen. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn reported at the time that the deal on the table would cost the Packers around $4 million to see what Raji does with the opportunity to keep his spot on the defensive line, again. Scheme and his role in the defense are issues the sides need to figure out – we’re not experts but something wasn’t connecting effectively between Raji and whatever the Packers were doing last year. For $4 million, though, it seemed like an affordable chance to take. Especially compared to an $8 million multi-year deal, the likes of which we can only assume he wasn’t hearing about elsewhere as the early days of free agency slipped by. In the end, as they so often seem to do, the Packers simply left their offer on the table and waited.
And now, per Tom Silverstein of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday, Raji has come back to Green Bay’s table and accepted the one-year, about $4 million offer. Bringing Raji back signals Green Bay not wanting to see him and the potential he has, that we’ve all already seen, leave right now – all contingent, of course, on the right price, which was their price. But even if it’s at a discount, with no long-term certainty, the Packers still believe there should be a use for him in this defense, currently in the process of being tweaked this offseason by Mike McCarthy and his defensive staff. Raji should be better, is what the deal is saying. And maybe they remain unconvinced. But in Green Bay unconvinced is a just a good reason to shorten the contract and lessen the financial load.
Anyway who knows what’ll happen, if there’ll be a Raji resurgence in 2014 or not. But with the deal done, the point is now this: we don’t have to definitively say we know how it ends for Raji in Green Bay, not just yet.