B.J. Raji has been a free agent for three consecutive years, but is now deciding to walk away from the game after six seasons for a "hiatus" instead of signing with a team for the 2016 season, the defensive tackle announced on Monday.
"I am taking a hiatus from the NFL and will not play during the 2016 NFL season," Raji wrote in a lengthy statement sent to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. "The decision was made after hours of conversation with close family members and mentors and considerable self-introspection and is one in which I am absolutely certain. I cannot rule out a return to the NFL in the future, but I will definitely not be playing during the 2016 season."
Raji, 29, was a first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and played the first six seasons of his career with the Packers, but looked to be on his way out. The move that probably sealed Raji's fate in Green Bay was the Packers' decision to retain Letroy Guion in February. The Packers re-signed Guion to a three-year, $11.25 million contract, which likely meant Raji would have had to find a deal elsewhere.
With Raji set to turn 30 this summer, there were some questions about his durability, although he's been mostly healthy throughout his career outside of missing all of 2014 with a torn biceps tendon.
Raji's best season as a professional came in 2010, when he recorded a career-high 29 tackles and 6.5 sacks as well. His days as a dominant force in the middle of the defensive line were likely over with, but many believed he still had enough in the tank to be an impactful player.
The veteran nose tackle is the latest in a trend of NFL players walking away from the game while still having the ability to make an impact on the field. Earlier in the offseason, Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, New England Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo and Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch all elected to hang up the cleats at age 30 or younger.
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