The Situation with Raji

The ongoing holdout of first round pick BJ Raji has grown to become terribly frustrating as of late, at least from a fans perspective. Normally in a holdout situation there is a good guy and a bad guy, at least somewhat. Either the player has excessive demands, or the team is being unfairly cheap. At least that is the story we get in the press (you will come to find that I am very leery of what I am told by the press, and tend to make up my mind on things on my own), but it isn’t in this case. I have no inside info, so this is all speculation and conjecture on my part, aside from the couple of rumors in the press and things said by the team.

Right now the reports have been a bit of a stew. Procedural things. Waiting on the contracts in the area, some suggestions have been made that it is Raji’s agent that is stalling, this is the conventional wisdom, but it has also been hinted that the Packers are the ones stalling, which seems unusual.

I have two completely different takes on this if it is the Packers, they are being cheap and trying to get this done as cheaply as is reasonable, or they are purposely stalling to help the owners case in the upcoming CBA negotiations.

First, make no doubt about it, if BJ Raji REALLY wanted to be in camp tomorrow, and forced his agent to march into Ball’s (GB’s contract negotiator Russ Ball) office with an offer of what #9 in 2008 got, he would be in camp tomorrow. Fair, not really, there is a big gray band where his contract could fall currently, for either side to cave, any offer has to be outside of the band. Likewise Ball offers 2008 #9 x 20%, chances are Raji is in camp asap. Either side could finish this right now if they were willing to cave. But that gray band is just too wide currently.

Unfortunately BJ is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Contract size has significantly accelerated at #7 and up for a few years, each year the agents try to push that line down. Jacksonville has been blessed two years in a row to be the team to dig in the name of the owners at #8. First it was Harvey, this year it is Monroe. If the system doesn’t change with the new CBA, #8 will continue to hold out every year until the team caves early. Then #9 is the new position with the target on it. Raji’s agent is surely hoping that Jacksonville caves. Fortunately for Packer fans, they proved last year with Harvey that they will not. Monroe is simply wasting his time holding out. Then there is Crabtree, who decided the system doesn’t apply to him and is trying to get the big money line pulled down to #10. This will have a huge effect on all neighboring contracts. I get the sense right now all agents of unsigned players in the area are willing to wait it out. If SF caves, the remaining unsigned guys each become worth a few million more. This is a lot of money. It would reset the top 10 system that has been established.

If the Packers are the one stalling, and it is for money reasons, they likely have an offer on the table. But it is unacceptably small. And the Packers are waiting to adjust their offer until they have a better picture of how high they need to go. This is a possibility and is likely, even if something a little more sinister might be at play. But, I simply can’t believe that this is the only cause simply because the Packers under Thompson have not shown to be cheap. Frugal, yes, but what they have, they play fair with and don’t shortchange (though they don’t overpay either). It simply hasn’t been Thompson’s mantra to unreasonably lowball agents in negotiations.

One thing to consider, though it is frequently brought up, “doing it for future clients”, that is a bit of hogwash this year. The writing is on the wall. NFL insiders would have to be blind not to see it. The commissioner strongly favors a new system. Ownership does. Even much of the union membership does (and have been public about it). Fans certainly do. The new CBA will somehow address top of the first contracts. Right now is the “good ‘ol days” for agents, and they know it. Soon the big money squeezed from teams, with wide eyed rookies as their clients that don’t know any better, will be over.

The question is, is ownership playing along. The first round was notably slow to sign this year, after a brisk pace for the rest of the rounds. Granted some structural changes to contracts were necessary due to the uncapped rules, but once one contract is done, that issue is resolved. It is widely believed that ownership is going to need to give concessions to change the system. But if ownership had a coordinated plan it is working. The current system is angering players. Complaining that rookies get too much. Big long holdouts because of “the system” are hurting teams, with no reasonable way to get a player into camp on time fairly.

Michael Crabtree is doing ownership a favor. When they sit down at the bargaining table to hammer out a new CBA, Crabtree’s actions will help give ownership’s position leverage. Raji is a key cog in all of this. He’s the guy caught in the middle, that said all the right things, did the right things, that became a victim of the system. Convenient that it happened to Green Bay. After all, Green Bay is a major player in CBA negotiations because they are the only team with open books.

So yes, a conspiracy could be underfoot, bigger than having a rookie ready for a couple of games early this year. An extra week or two of a supposed contract staredown can play huge dividends at the bargaining table if the team plays the victim card successfully.

Just a reasoned guess, but my take is that the team isn’t going to move forward until Monroe or Crabtree do, even if they could, unless Raji made them an offer that the team couldn’t refuse (which the team might have on the table anyway that Raji’s agent is balking at, likely IMO), because the Packers are milking this for ammunition on behalf of the owners for a much bigger fight. We have heard hints of this as well, at least hints that the team is the one doing nothing, from various sources, including Greg Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (which defies logic if you think about it, Crabtree and Monroe would bump the team’s offer up, not down, why would they wait).

Either way, I wouldn’t expect Raji to be signed any time soon, unless either Monroe or Crabtree signs, unfortunately for Packer fans and for BJ, as we were hoping for something completely different than this. Raji even stated to the press that he didn’t want to hold out and seemed quite sincere. Making the victim story that much more plausible, A note on the bright side, the “rookie wall” might not occur as early (or at all) with Raji.


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One Response to “The Situation with Raji”

  1. Roshan Says:

    Salaami here. Great post and it’s definitely an interesting perspective on the Raji situation. If what you’re speculating is true, it’s sad for Raji who seems like a kid that just wants to be out with the team playing football. I hope this deal just gets done soon because I really want to see Raji in action. I was ecstatic to grab him and to add a 4th potentially dominant linemen to the team would be a HUGE lift, especially since Pickett and Harrell will/should be on a snap count for different reasons.

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