It was just over a week ago that the Packers reportedly offered B.J. Raji a one-year, $4 million "prove it" contract. Having subsequently explored his options and failing to find the lucrative multi-year offer, the free agent defensive lineman accepted the deal and will return to Green Bay for the 2014 season.
Selected ninth overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, Raji projected as the ideal nose tackle required to anchor the Packers' 3-4 defense. For a brief period, Raji excelled in that role, helping the Packers defense become one of the NFL's elite units from 2009-2010. Raji's performance and production fell off in the years since, perhaps the result of a move from nose tackle to defensive end.
However, as NFL.com's Ian Rapoport notes, the new contract was signed with the understanding that Raji would return to the nose tackle position. The Packers obviously hope the move will facilitate the rejuvenation of Raji's career. If successful, he will be posed to earn a new deal as big or bigger than the one Raji and his agent David Dunn turned down last offseason.
While Raji's deal extends his stay in Green Bay, the signing likely signals the end of Ryan Pickett's tenure with the team. At age 34 and with declining skills, Pickett's best chance to return hinged upon Raji departing. Pickett had played most of the past two seasons at nose tackle, a position no longer vacant.