Count B.J. Raji among those who expected the free-agent market to yield much better long-term contract offers than it did earlier this offseason.
Raji looked like a strong bet to leave the Packers in free agency after turning down their lucrative long-term offer last year, but after a nondescript 2013 season no team offered him a multi-year deal that he deemed worth signing.
In his first meeting with media since re-signing with the Packers for one year in March, Raji said his rookie contract as a top 10 pick under the previous collective bargaining agreement gave him the financial security to put off signing a longer-term deal until next offseason.
“The way ball is going now, not just myself but a lot of people are starting to realize that the market isn’t what you and your people are estimating it to be,” Raji said of the multi-year offers he received in free agency. “From that you have to make the best decision for yourself. Some guys take the money that’s out there. Myself, I’m not always all about the money, I’m more about putting myself in position (to hit free agency again) in the future and winning. It depends what’s important to you at that particular time. To be quite honest, a lot of guys weren’t top 10 picks, so they don’t have the luxury of deciding to leave the money and come back.”
Raji’s one-year deal with the Packers this season is worth up to $4 million ($3.1 million in base salary, a $500,000 roster bonus, up to $300,000 in per game roster bonuses, and a $100,000 workout bonus).
Raji’s contract as the No. 9 pick overall in the 2009 draft shows how much the most recent collective bargaining agreement in the NFL has changed rookie salaries. His rookie deal paid him $26.5 million total over the last five years, whereas the No. 9 pick this year, outside linebacker Anthony Barr, recently signed a four-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings that will pay him $12.7 million.
Raji said the Packers’ pitch to move him back to nose tackle in their 3-4 personnel package also helped convince him to re-sign with them. He was their primary nose tackle in 2009 and ’10, before playing more at defensive end than nose tackle starting in ’11 through last season.
“I think (coach Mike McCarthy) took a hard look at the team overall,” Raji said, “and he obviously spent a lot of time in the offseason with the coaches, and their scheme evolved, and everything that took place, I think (they decided) that’s the best place for me, and I agreed.”