On the Packers' contract front, it’s been assumed since before the season began that it would be only a matter of time before the team re-ups with the players widely considered to be its best performers on both sides of the ball — offensive centerpiece Aaron Rodgers and defensive centerpiece Clay Matthews.
Rodgers, who displayed his 2011 MVP form the second half of this season, has two years left on his contract after this year. The original contract for Matthews, who has been playing as good as ever since returning from a hamstring injury that forced him to miss four games, expires after the 2013 season.
The way we keep hearing it, new deals for both players could very well be nailed down before the 2013 draft in late April.
We also keep hearing that there is a third re-signing priority — NT B.J. Raji, another former No. 1 pick whose agent, David Dunn, also represents both Rodgers and Matthews. Like Matthews, Raji’s deal expires after the 2013 season, when his option for 2014 will become void.
Unlike Rodgers and Matthews, Raji has had what most team insiders would consider an average year, with as many ups as downs. Down the stretch, though, Raji has displayed flashes reminiscent of his impressive breakout year in 2010, which set the stage for a Pro Bowl berth the next season that most observers agree he probably did not deserve.
But the fact the Packers really don’t have another player with Raji's considerable skills at nose tackle enhances his value to the team. The only player on the roster that comes even close to being a comparable wide-body to Raji is 12-year veteran Ryan Pickett, who probably has enough gas in the tank for another year or two at best.
With that in mind, don’t be surprised if the D-line is one of the team's priorities on Draft Day for the second straight season.