B.J. Raji

Veteran NT B.J. Raji Unlikely To Attempt Comeback

When nose tackle B.J. Raji walked away from football in 2016, he declared it a “hiatus” instead of a retirement. Well, the 31-year-old probably won’t be returning to the NFL anytime soon. ESPN’s Rob Demovsky tweets that he’s asked several agents about Raji’s status over the past few years, and it “doesn’t sound like” the longtime Packers standout will ever be coming back.

The veteran has sat out the past two seasons, and he reportedly turned down a lucrative contract to stick around with Green Bay in 2016. Last year, we heard that members of the Packers organization had been keeping in touch with Raji, and head coach Mike McCarthy even said the organization would “like to have him back.”

The 2009 first-round pick out of Boston College had spent his entire seven-year career with Green Bay, earning a Pro Bowl birth and a Super Bowl championship along the way. Raji missed the entire 2014 campaign due to a torn bicep, but he otherwise missed only five regular season games during his time with the Packers. In that span, he compiled 151 total tackles, 11 sacks, and 10 passes defended.

Presumably, if Raji were to attempt a comeback, it’d be with the Packers. However, it’s unlikely the veteran would play much more than a reserve role. After all, the organization used a first-round pick on nose tackle Kenny Clark back in 2016, and the 22-year-old has proceeded to compile 76 tackles and 4.5 sacks during his two years with Green Bay.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

B.J. Raji Not Planning 2017 Comeback

Longtime Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji surprisingly elected to take last season off from football, and it appears he’ll do the same in 2017. The 30-year-old is helping to take care of his mother and aunt, both of whom have dealt with illnesses, and “hasn’t really thought about football,” agent Brian Murphy told Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.

B.J. Raji

Members of the Packers organization have kept in touch with Raji, per head coach Mike McCarthy, and Murphy added that the club would “like to have him back.” Before Raji stepped away from the game last March, he turned down a lucrative offer from the Packers as a free agent and also rebuffed interest from other teams. Raji has made $26MM during his NFL career, notes Demovsky.

A careerlong Packer, Raji went to the club ninth overall in the 2009 draft and appeared in 91 regular-season games (78 starts) before leaving the game. The ex-Boston College standout helped the Packers win a Super Bowl to cap off the 2010 season, during which he recorded a personal-high 6.5 sacks. He then earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2011.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Eagles, Bolden, Buccaneers, Raji

Some assorted notes from around the NFC…

  • After having worked under Andy Reid for several years, Doug Pederson is now in full control as the head coach of the Eagles. Reid had guided the Eagles to the playoffs during his second season as head coach in Philly, but Pederson believes he inherited a better team than his mentor. “This team today is better than that team,” Pederson told Jeff McLane of Philly.com. “I just think that we’re in a better position.”
  • Safety Omar Bolden was released by the Bears yesterday, but Troy Renck of Denver7 ABC tweets that the 27-year-old “will land on his feet.” Renck notes that the former Broncos draft pick could wind up in Denver, and he adds that his release from the Bears was due to the team’s “logjam” at defensive back.
  • If Buccaneers offensive lineman Gosder Cherilus proves to be nothing more than a backup to Demar Dotson, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times could see the team letting go of him and his $4.5MM salary. Other veterans who could find themselves on the hot seat include offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith, defensive end George Johnson, tight end Brandon Myers, and safety Major Wright.
  • The Packers had offered B.J. Raji a “lucrative” contract, indicating that they expected him to play a major role on their 2016 squad. However, as ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky writes, the defensive lineman’s one-year hiatus from the NFL suddenly changed the organization’s offseason plans.

 

NFC Notes: Raji, Brees, Seahawks, Rams

Packers president Mark Murphy was surprised by B.J. Raji‘s decision to walk away from football, but he respects the former NFL defensive lineman’s decision, as ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky writes.

“Oh yeah, he had been communicating with [team contract negotiator Russ Ball] and we thought we had a deal done,” the Packers president said. “I think it surprised his agent. I’ll tell you, I really respect B.J. It’s not an easy decision. The easy thing to do is take the money. Especially the letter he wrote, he obviously thought things through. No, I was surprised. I’m happy for him. He obviously gave it some thought.”

While Raji won’t be playing in 2016, he left the door open for a return in the future, and Packers head coach Mike McCarthy believes the big defensive tackle will eventually return. “It would have to be at the right time,” McCarthy said, per Demovsky.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Saints quarterback Drew Brees says that extension talks are ongoing, though he does not know when or if a deal will be worked out, as Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune writes. “I don’t know that it is something that will be done next week or before the end of the year or next year or when,” Brees said on 104.5-FM in Baton Rouge. Brees, 37, is entering the final year of a five-year, $100MM deal he signed in 2012.
  • Asked today about the message Kam Chancellor posted to Instagram last week indicating that he’s “not going anywhere,” Seahawks GM John Schneider confirmed that the safety will “absolutely” be a Seahawk in 2016, though he didn’t offer any specifics on whether a specific conversation or incident prompted Chancellor to post that message. Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times has the details.
  • Schneider also said today that the Seahawks have not yet received Marshawn Lynch‘s retirement papers, but said there’s no rush to make a roster move involving Lynch — for cap purposes, the club may wait until after June 1 to do anything with Lynch (Twitter link via Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com).
  • Having lost Rodney McLeod in free agency, the Rams continue to monitor the market in search of potential help at the free safety position, writes Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com.
  • Lions GM Bob Quinn indicated today that the team’s extension discussions with 2013’s draft class likely won’t really heat up until after the draft, per Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com (Twitter link). Ezekiel Ansah and Darius Slay are, of course, the two most noteworthy extension candidates who fit that bill.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Free Agent Rumors: Raji, Packers, Pats

The latest free agent rumors:

  • Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel (on Twitter) heard that Packers lineman B.J. Raji had “five legit offers,” though as Silverstein notes, “legit” is in the eye of the beholder. Raji, he hears, had to weigh those offers versus wanting to spend time with his family plus his own health concerns.
  • Free agent receiver Nate Washington met with the Patriots on Monday, according to FOX 26’s Mark Berman (via Twitter). Washington was ranked as Pro Football Rumors’ No. 13 free agent wide receiver in early March.
  • Browns free agent linebacker Craig Robertson is on his way to visit the Saints, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Robertson just got done visiting with Seattle. As Schefter notes, the Browns have already lost five unrestricted free agents this month and they could be on their way to losing free agent No. 6 if Robertson signs elsewhere.
  • Cornerback Antwon Blake will visit the Patriots on Tuesday, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com tweets. Blake visited the Titans today and also has a visit scheduled with the Lions on Wednesday.
  • The Giants are looking for cornerbacks, particularly corners that can play in the slot, Jordan Raanan of the Star-Ledger tweets. He adds that Patrick Robinson and Jerraud Powers are two players to keep an eye on. The Eagles, Dolphins, and Bears have also been connected to Robinson.
  • Free agent defensive end Chris Clemons completed his visit with the Dolphins, as Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets.

B.J. Raji Won’t Play In NFL In 2016

1:27pm: As Wood details at PackersNews.com, Raji has issued a full statement explaining his decision and suggesting that his retirement may not be permanent. The defensive tackle’s statement reads, in part:

“I am taking a hiatus from the NFL and will not play during the 2016 NFL season. 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.”

1:05pm: Longtime Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji, who is a free agent this offseason, won’t be signing with a new team anytime soon. According to Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette (via Twitter), Raji intends to retire from the NFL, ending his playing career.B.J. Raji

Raji, 29, was selected ninth overall by the Packers in the 2009 draft, and has been with the team for seven seasons since then. With 91 regular season games (78 starts) on his career resume, Raji was a significant piece of the Packers’ defensive line for the last several seasons. His best years came in 2010 – when he recorded a career-high 6.5 sacks – and 2011, when he earned his first and only Pro Bowl nod.

Raji tells Wood (Twitter link) that he’s turning down a “very, very nice deal” from the Packers, as well as interest from multiple playoff teams, so his decision certainly doesn’t seem to be based on a lack of opportunities. Raji, who missed the entire 2014 campaign with a torn biceps, has had some injury issues in recent years, so it’s possible those are playing a part in his decision.

While Raji is moving on, the Packers did re-sign Letroy Guion to help stabilize the interior of their defensive line. The team typically isn’t active early on in the free agent period, but defensive tackle is a spot where Green Bay could target depth additions later on in free agency, or in the draft.

The Panthers had been among the other teams rumored to be interested in Raji.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

FA Rumors: Okung, Galette, Raji, Forte

Free agent offensive tackle Russell Okung has offers on the table from the Lions, Steelers, and Giants, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, who reports (via Twitter) that Okung is talking to Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak today. Meanwhile, Jordan Raanan of NJ.com (Twitter link) hears that the Giants are probably an underdog for the former first-round pick, who has no other visits scheduled for now.

While La Canfora doesn’t indicate that the Seahawks have made a formal offer to Okung, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Seattle is out of it. We heard last week that the Seahawks were making a push to bring back their tackle, and it’s possible he’ll give his longtime team a chance to match offers he receives from rival suitors. Since he’s representing himself, Okung’s time on the market has lasted a little longer than it otherwise might have, but it looks like there’s a decent chance of him getting something done this week.

Let’s round up a few more free agent rumors from around the NFL…

  • Junior Galette remains in a holding pattern, according to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, who reports that the pass rusher would like a one-year deal that would pay him in the $7-9MM range. Jones writes that Washington has made one-, two-, and three-year offers to Galette, but they’re all low on base salaries and heavy on incentives.
  • The Panthers are in the market for players to contribute to their defensive tackle rotation, and David Newton of ESPN.com says that the team has interest in B.J. Raji. Carolina also brought in Paul Soliai for a visit over the weekend, as we previously heard.
  • In a conversation with reporters, including Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (Twitter links), Matt Forte said today that the Buccaneers and Cowboys were among his suitors, and the Patriots and Packers also expressed “minor interest.” Forte, who ultimately signed with the Jets, added that not receiving an offer from the Bears was a “hard pill to swallow.”
  • According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter), defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill is the latest in a series of interior defenders to visit the Seahawks, who are looking to beef up the middle of the line in the wake of Brandon Mebane‘s departure.

Packers Expect To Re-Sign Mason Crosby

The Packers have been engaged in “regular talks” with agent Mike McCartney, the rep for Mason Crosby, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, who reports that the team expects to get a deal done with its kicker without using the franchise tag.Mason Crosby

[RELATED: Packers sign Letroy Guion to extension]

Crosby, 31, has been kicking for the Packers since the 2007 season, making 79.7% of hie field goals over the course of those nine seasons. He has been even better in recent years, making at least 85% of his kicks in three of his last five seasons. In 2015, he converted 24 of 28 field goal tries (85.7%), and didn’t miss any longer extra-point attempts.

The Packers don’t have any position players who look like viable candidates for the franchise or transition tag, so it makes sense that Crosby would be the only real option. If Green Bay did franchise him, it would probably cost the team in excess of $4.5MM for 2016 — a high price for a kicker, but not exorbitant for a one-year deal.

Based on Demovsky’s report, though, it sounds as if the Packers are optimistic they’ll work out a longer-term agreement with Crosby. If they get something done, the per-year salary will likely be more modest, but the total guarantee could match or exceed that $4.5MM+ franchise-tag amount.

In other Packers news, Demovsky writes that Brian Murphy, B.J. Raji‘s agent, said he met with Packers chief negotiator Russ Ball this week about a new deal for his client — nothing is imminent at this point, but there’s mutual interest between the two sides.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Forte, Raji, Cowboys, Bears, Bucs

Soon-to-be ex-Bears running back Matt Forte will be “lucky” to get more than $4MM annually on his next contract, sources tell Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Forte, 30, was informed earlier today that he won’t be re-signed by Chicago, so he’ll be looking for a new club when free agency begins month.

That new club could be in New York, writes Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post, as either the Jets or Giants could show interest in Forte. The Jets have far less cap space (as Seth Walder of the New York Daily News noted earlier today), but more of a need at running back, as Chris Ivory is expected to move on. The Giants, meanwhile, possess a great deal of cap room, but aren’t as good a fit for Forte.

Let’s take a look at more from around the league:

  • Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji called the new three-year deal signed by teammate Letroy Guion “well-deserved,” but admitted he’s not sure if – or how – it affects his potential future with the team, writes Ryan Wood of PackersNews.com. Green Bay has not yet initiated contract talks for Raji, the free-agent-to-be tells Wood.
  • The Cowboys‘ extensive search for Jerome Henderson‘s replacement continues, as Alex Marvez of FOX Sports tweets that Dallas interviewed Buccaneers cornerbacks coach Gill Byrd for the team’s defensive backs coach position. Byrd joins Mike Gillhamer, Steve Brown, Joe Baker, Tim Lewis, and Mike Nolan as candidates who have spoken to the Cowboys about the secondary coach job.
  • Former Rutgers offensive coordinator Ben McDaniels is headed back to the NFL, as he’ll join the Bears‘ offensive staff, per Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated (no word on McDaniels’ official title). McDaniels, the brother of Patriots play-caller Josh McDaniels, had previously worked with both the Buccaneers and the Broncos.
  • The Buccaneers seem intent on bringing in competition for kicker Connor Barth, as Tampa worked out Josh Scobee, Nate Freese, Mike Meyer, and Cameron Starke today, tweets Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. Barth converted 23-of-28 field goal attempts in 2015, with two of those misses coming from beyond 50 yards.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

NFC Notes: Raji, Alonso, D. Washington

Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji missed all of last season with a torn bicep and then re-signed with the team on a one-year deal earlier this offseason, but Green Bay wasn’t his only suitor in free agency.

“I actually, ironically, had more interest this time around than last year,” said Raji, according to Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com. “I’m talking about as far as the contending teams. I had two, three playoff teams.”

One of those teams was the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots, per Wilde, but Raji simply couldn’t bring himself to leave Green Bay.

“I just wasn’t comfortable leaving this place in the shape that it was in, the perception about the defense, the perception of myself,” Raji said. “If I was going to leave this place, I wanted to be able to say, ‘Yeah, those guys really get it.’ I didn’t want to leave with questions. As a person, having a lot invested in this program, if it is ever time to leave, I want to leave on a good note.”

Here’s the latest on a couple of the Packers’ fellow NFC teams:

  • Eagles linebacker Kiko Alonso, whom the team acquired from Buffalo earlier this offseason, missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in July. There don’t seem to be any lingering effects from the injury, however, as the 24-year-old is ahead of schedule in his recovery, writes Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I honestly didn’t think I’d be doing this much,” said Alonso, who participated in organized team activities this week without wearing a brace. “I’ve just been going on how I feel, and it’s feeling really good.”
  • Speaking of the Eagles’ defense, the team revamped its secondary in the offseason by signing Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond, using a first-round pick on Eric Rowe, and parting ways with Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, and Nate Allen. Despite all the noteworthy additions and subtractions, safety Malcolm Jenkins believes the most important move Philadelphia made with respect to its secondary was replacing previous defensive backs coach John Lovett with Cory Undlin, who coached Denver’s DBs from 2013-14. “Adding Cory Undlin is really probably the biggest addition we had when you talk about upgrading that (defensive backs) room,” said Jenkins, according to Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com. The Lovett-led Eagles finished 2014 second last in the NFL in pass defense and toward the bottom of the league in interceptions.
  • The league suspended Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington for four games in 2013 and all of 2014 because of multiple substance-abuse violations, and he’s expected to miss time this year because of domestic-violence issues. Despite all that baggage, Washington’s teammates still want him back, head coach Bruce Arians told Bob McManaman of AZCentral.com. If he’s reinstated by the league, I know this – our players want him back in the locker room. That’s fine by me,” said Arians.