According to many reports, defensive lineman B.J. Raji wasn’t exactly beating free-agent suitors off with a stick this spring.
Raji re-signed with the Green Bay Packers on a one-year, $4 million deal but disputed the notion that his phone wasn’t ringing.
“Actually, there was some interest,” Raji told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “That’s why I don’t look at it as, ‘Oh, I’m coming back for one year.’ It was, I chose to come back for one year. I had some options. I’m not going to get into that, but I had a few teams who were interested in me.”
Raji’s numbers slumped significantly in 2013, when he had just 17 tackles and no sacks in 16 starts, but the five-year veteran is excited about moving back inside.
The Packers plan to play Raji at nose tackle in 2014.
Raji played on the nose from 2010-12, earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2011 after posting 22 tackles and three sacks. Statistically, he was even better in 2010, with 39 tackles and a career-high 6.5 sacks from the nose as Green Bay went on to win the Super Bowl.
He said that at a listed 6-foot-2 and 337 pounds, he has advantages on the inside.
“I’d say typical centers are squattier and you’re in a close proximity,” Raji said. “If you’re able to defeat the blocker, you’re in a direct line usually with the ball carrier or the quarterback or whatever. That’s a good fit with me.”
Raji deserves kudos for one thing—while playing at a position he’d rather not have been playing, he never raised a ruckus, instead simply saying that what mattered was the Packers were still going to the playoffs.
But what the Packers are hoping for is a return of the guy who could be such a disruptive force at the point of attack on the interior of the defensive line.
And Raji gets points for understanding his situation—a one-year deal for a veteran player is usually a sign that the team isn’t entirely sold on a guy and needs some reassurances he can still play.
“You can take that how you want to take it,” Raji said. “I just thought this was the best opportunity for me this year. I believe going back inside and doing some things I am accustomed to doing a few years back, I just felt like this is a good move for me.”