“I am taking a hiatus from the NFL and will not play during the 2016 NFL season,” Raji said in an official statement. “This decision was made after hours of conversation with close family members and mentors and considerable self-introspection and is one in which I am absolutely certain. I cannot rule out a return to the NFL in the future, but I will definitely not be playing during the 2016 season.”
Raji finished his career with 78 regular season starts, 10 pass deflections, 11 sacks and 104 tackles.
Fortunately enough, Raji’s retirement gave the Packers’ organization plenty of time to re-think their draft strategy.
As a result, the Packers selected defensive tackle Kenny Clark with their first round pick, in the 2016 NFL Draft.
In two preseason games, Clark has recorded two tackles. He did not make the flight out to San Francisco for the Packers’ fourth preseason game against the 49ers because of a back injury.
Clark has yet to return to practice and his status is still unknown for the Packers’ final preseason game. The team is hopeful he will be ready for their week one match-up against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Another member of the defensive line is set to miss some time: Mike Pennel.
The starting defensive end will sit out the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Pennel played in all 16 games last season and started five.
The combination of Pennel’s suspension and the potential of Clark’s injury to linger into the start of the regular season leave the Packers thin and inexperienced on the defensive line.
They would have to rely on players like Christian Ringo, a 2015 sixth round pick, who spent the entire season on the practice squad and rookie Dean Lowry, who still has a ton of learning to do.
With that being said, Terrance Knighton, also known as, ‘Pot Roast,’ would be a great fit for the Packers. Knighton signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the New England Patriots in March and was released earlier this week.
Jun 7, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (96) during mini camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
In seven NFL seasons, the former third-round selection has recorded 159 tackles and 14 sacks.
One thing that stands out is his ability to stay on the field. He has played in 63 of his last 64 regular season games.
At 6-3 and just over 350 pounds, Knighton is a big body that can contribute immediately as a run-stopper and as a mentor for the younger players.