Within a nine-day span in April, the Green Bay Packers signed outside linebacker Clay Matthews to a five-year, $66 million extension and quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a five-year, $110 million deal. Those two extensions, which included $55.5 million in upfront signing bonuses and $74.5 million in guaranteed money, locked up two core members of the Packers' roster for the long-term.
Nose tackle B.J. Raji, who was picked 17 spots ahead of Matthews in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft, is entering the final year of his rookie contract, but will have to wait on a new deal.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Raji will have to earn a lucrative extension with his play in 2013. Raji is scheduled to earn $4.49 million in base salary and a $225,000 workout bonus in 2013. Rapoport adds that the 334-pound Raji is "focused, in shape and eating healthy" and will be playing in a tweaked scheme similar to the one that allowed him to post a career-high 6.5 sacks during the 2010 season.
Overall, Raji has 112 tackles and 10.5 sacks in his 60-game career with the Packers, but is coming off the first season he was held without a sack. If Raji plays to his potential and hits the free agent market, the nose tackle could earn a multi-year deal averaging around $8 million per season. However, there is no guarantee that Raji will be a free agent next offseason.
The Packers could designate Raji as their franchise player and restrict his ability to negotiate with other teams. The franchise tag for defensive tackles has dropped considerably over the last three seasons, going from an inflated figure of $12.476 million in 2011 to $8.45 million in 2013.
If the salary cap remains flat in 2014, "Shutdown Corner" estimates that the franchise tag for a defensive tackle will be worth $8.477 million.
Whether or not the Packers would use the tag on Raji depends largely on his performance in 2013, but the former Boston College standout is the most likely candidate on the roster to receive the franchise tag treatment next offseason. Cornerback Sam Shields, who signed his restricted free agent tender worth $2.023 million on Monday, is another possibility, but the franchise tag for a cornerback comes with a higher price tag. Again assuming that the salary cap remains flat, the cornerback tender is estimated to be worth $11.117 million next offseason.
According to salary data maintained by "Shutdown Corner", the Packers have $117.37 million in salary cap commitments for the 2014 season, but currently have over $13 million in space from 2013. The Packers can "roll over" any unused cap space, which will be added to next year's cap. With over $15 million in cap space, the Packers should have the flexibility to keep both Raji and Shields, should their play this season warrant extensions.