Defensive lineman B.J. Raji expected to have a good year and earn a big contract last season. But after the worst year of his career, Raji re-signed with the Green Bay Packers on a one-year deal and will try to prove himself again in 2014.
In 17 games last season, Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji had 19 tackles, three tackles for loss, zero sacks and 10 quarterback hurries.
Andrew Weber / USA TODAY Sports
By Paul Imig
FOX Sports Wisconsin's Paul Imig gives an in-depth statistical analysis and film study of every Packers player in his annual offseason checkup. Check every weekday through mid-April for his latest report.
Season stats: 17 games (666 snaps; 58.6 percent of total defensive snaps); 19 tackles, three tackles for loss, zero sacks, 10 quarterback hurries, zero batted passes, two missed tackles, zero forced fumbles, 15 stops (solo tackles that resulted in offensive failure)
ProFootballFocus.com season rating: minus-14.8 (ranked No. 26 out of Packers' 26 qualifying defensive players)
Best game: Week 1 loss at San Francisco (played 52 of 81 defensive snaps; three tackles, one quarterback hurry, three stops; 1.4 PFF rating)
Worst game: Week 10 loss vs. Philadelphia (played 34 of 62 snaps; zero tackles, zero quarterback hurries; minus-3.0 PFF rating)
Expectations at the start of the season: Medium
Expectations were ... Not met
Looking live: During the 2013 offseason, Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews both got huge contract extensions. So did Morgan Burnett. B.J. Raji did not. Not long before that, Raji was viewed as the clear No. 3 player in line for a new contract behind Rodgers and Matthews, but the Packers' front office had other plans. "I feel they'll do right by me," Raji said on May 28, 2013. Raji didn't seem overly disappointed by those developments, partially because it gave him an opportunity to prove himself, which he planned on doing. "I don't think I've played my best football, and that's the beauty of it," Raji said June 23. "I feel like my best ball is ahead of me." Raji was ranked No. 6 on FOXSportsWisconsin.com's "Most Important Packers in 2013" pre-training camp series because, at the time, he was Green Bay's most versatile, every-down type of defensive lineman. Raji had also played very well over the final month of the 2012 season and it seemed very possible that he'd carry that over to the next year. Raji was quiet in training camp, though. It was noted in FOXSportsWisconsin.com's Training Camp Report series on Aug. 1 that Raji struggled in the one-on-one blocking drills, including losing reps to Andrew Datko (who was later released).
Upon further review: Raji had the worst statistical production of his five-year NFL career in 2013. He had zero sacks for the second consecutive season, recorded a career-low 19 total tackles (playoff game included), failed to have a batted pass for the first time in his career and has still yet to force a fumble. Those aren't the numbers that a player wants to have ever, much less in a contract year. But a part of that isn't necessarily Raji's fault. His job was to take up blockers so that his teammates could be free to make plays. "My role this year is a little bit different," Raji said Dec. 19. "I've accepted that and I'm all right with that." He also acknowledged that defensive coordinator Dom Capers had been in the NFL for a long time and wasn't going to change his scheme just to make Raji happier. But along with that altered role came less playing time, as Raji wasn't used in most third-down situations. "I don't label myself as a two-down defensive lineman; I'm just a two-down defensive lineman for us this year," Raji said. Raji's snaps were down for the third consecutive season. He went from playing 85 percent in 2010, to 79 percent in 2011, to 68 percent in 2012, to 58 percent in 2013. Capers said in June 2013 that his hope was that Raji was "getting ready to have his best year." That certainly didn't happen, but it would be interesting to see how Raji would've performed if given more opportunities to make plays.
Overall 2013 grade: C
Status for 2014: One-hundred percent chance of being on the Packers' active roster to begin the 2014 season. Raji re-signed with Green Bay this offseason to a one-year, $4 million deal. With the new contract comes a different role for Raji, who will play nose tackle in the Packers' defense next season. That was appealing to Raji, as it gives him a chance to be closer to the ball and have a bigger impact on the game. It also means Raji, who will turn 28 years old before training camp, will be motivated to have a great year and earn a big contract from some team next offseason. Despite his lack of statistical production recently, Raji is still very athletic for a 337-pound player and is more than capable of being a force for Green Bay.