B.J. Raji, Packers close to deal


The Green Bay Packers and B.J. Raji are close to completing a one-year deal that will keep the defensive tackle off the free-agent market, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Thursday morning.

Raji's goal, sources say, is to play better and prove himself this season then hit the free-agent market next year. He reportedly turned down an $8 million per year offer last season, potentially a sign that he preferred to play in a defense that gives linemen more freedom.

He led all Packers linemen in playing time, seeing the field on 59 percent of the defensive snaps, but Raji failed to record a sack for the second straight season. Some of that was due to the fact defensive tackles in Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme are responsible for eating up blockers more than making plays in the backfield, but the former first-round pick in 2009 (No. 9 overall) was an effective pass-rusher earlier in his career playing in the same system.

His best season came in 2010, when he had 6.5 sacks and made a key play in the NFC Championship Game against the Chicago Bears, intercepting a pass and returning it 18 yards for a touchdown. Raji has only three sacks since -- all in 2011 -- and had a career-low 17 tackles last season.

Green Bay, which did not use the franchise or transition tags for any of its players, has more than $30 million in cap space. The Packers have 17 players who would be eligible for unrestricted free agency beginning March 11.

Teams can begin negotiating with free agents Saturday, but no deals can be signed until Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

ESPN.com Packers reporter Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.