Update: Raji’s deal is reportedly worth $28.5 million over five years. The Packers ponied up just under $18 million in guaranteed money. On paper, the deal looks less inflated than the contract the Oakland Raiders gave Darius Heyward-Bey, which was the reason the Packers were having trouble signing Raji to begin with.
The Green Bay Packers have reached a deal with their top draft choice, B.J. Raji, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Although the contract hasn’t been signed, the two sides have come to terms in principle, Greg A. Bedard is reporting. Raji is expected to be in Green Bay to sign the deal on Friday.
The Packers can certainly use Raji for depth with Justin Harrell injured again, and Johnny Jolly out with a sprained ankle.
More details on the contract as they become available.
As the conclusion to Total Packers’ ongoing profiles of draft pick signees, here’s your look at B.J. Raji. You can check out our profiles of linebacker Clay Matthews here, fullback Quinn Johnson here, offensive linemen T.J. Lang and Jamon Meredith here and Jarius Wynn, Brandon Underwood and Brad Jones here.
Raji was penciled in as a starter for the Packers at defensive end, opposite Cullen Jenkins, coming into training camp, but his extended absence has dropped him to the second team. He is currently behind Ryan Pickett at nose tackle on the Packers depth chart, but we expect to see Raji running with the first team defense at defensive end in a week or two.
Raji’s history is well documented. Although he had an outstanding senior season at Boston College, Raji was forced to sit out the 2007 season for academic reasons (which he addresses briefly in the second video). Several other red flags have been raised about his maturity and dedication as well. In 2006, Raji was suspended for throwing a punch at a Central Michigan player. He played that season at over 350 pounds, and has never been considered someone who spends a lot of time in the weight room.
Despite all of that, Raji has a tremendous upside and was considered by most scouts to be the top defensive lineman in the 2009 NFL Draft.
At 6-2, 337 Raji is a beast. He has a quick first step off the ball and the ability to get into the backfield. Plus, his mass is ideal for taking on double teams and holding the point of attack in the 3-4 defense. When he puts his mind to it, Raji has shown he can be a dominant force.
Other than the concerns about his work ethic and maturity, the knocks on Raji are few. He played nose tackle in college and will be asked to transition to defensive end in the NFL, at least initially (Pickett is a free agent after the season) – a position he may not be ideally suited for. Although Raji has demonstrated initial quickness, he has trouble maintaining his speed and tackling in space, something he will have to do more as a defensive end than at nose tackle. Raji will never be a major force as a pass rusher, but can be dominant against the run and a major disruptive force in the backfield.