With news surfaced Monday that Jeff Janis expects to miss the next 4-6 weeks while recovering from a broken hand, the Green Bay Packers appear to have a significantly less complicated decision to make at wide receiver come final cut down. However, the team must know determine the best way to handle Janis, a player who has displayed tremendous potential yet continues to struggle with basic aspects of the receiver position.
One option the Packers don’t have is placing Janis on the physically unable to perform list (PUP). Only players that have not participated in training camp maintain eligibility for the PUP, and Janis broke his hand during one of the team’s practices.
Still, Green Bay does have other ways of keeping Janis off the market without burning a roster spot. However, that doesn’t mean a the third-year wide receiver cannot still end up of the team’s Week 1 53-man roster.
Let’s break down the Packers’ options.
Waive Janis outright
While it doesn’t seem especially likely at this stage, the Packers could decide not to continue the Janis experiment and waive him outright. Another team could either claim him off waivers or the wideout would become a free agent.
Waiving Janis would create a dead-cap figure of just under $13,000 and create a savings of $600,000. The Packers currently possess around $9 million in cap space, so Janis’ contract doesn’t make a meaningful impact either way.
Given what Green Bay has already invested in Janis -- two full years and an offseason -- along with Janis’ impact on special teams as both a kickoff returner and gunner, such an approach seems imprudent, especially since the team has more appealing options.
Keep Janis on the 53-man roster
Obviously, the lack of two working hands makes catching passes a rather difficult endeavor for Janis. Still, as one of the NFL’s elite gunners on special teams, he can still factor into games as part of the Packers’ coverage units.
Janis would have to work with a club on his injured hand, which could limit his ability to wrap up on tackles. Still, his speed allows him to run down punts faster than almost anyone the Packers have on special teams, forcing fair catches and mistakes by returners.
Don’t expect Green Bay to play Janis the rest of the preseason; the coaching staff already knows what he can do on special teams. Still, it remains possible the team could keep him on the 53 and even activate him on game days as a gunner while he recovers from his hand injury. Doing so would prevent another club from sniffing Janis, but it would also mean severing ties with another useful player who may not pass through waivers or sign to the Packers’ practice squad.
Place Janis on injured reserve
The Packers could have their cake and eat it too simply by placing Janis on injured reserve when the final cut down arrives. Doing so allows the team to save a roster spot for a healthy player while simultaneously keeping him out of the hands of other clubs. Green Bay cannot place Janis on IR before the final cut down without first exposing him to waivers, as the wideout does not have the necessary four accrued season to do so.
And a trip to injured reserve doesn’t necessarily prevent Janis from playing for the Packers in 2016. The NFL changed its rules in 2012 to allow teams to designate one player for return after spending at least eight weeks on IR. Those rules changed again this offseason, removing the requirement to designate ahead of time. Now, the Packers could place Janis on IR and decide later whether or not to bring him back.
Doing so allows Green Bay to weigh the benefits and risks of activating Janis over an extended period rather than betting that a more important player doesn’t suffer a major injury later on. So if, say, Aaron Rodgers breaks his collarbone again, the team can decide to place the quarterback on IR and use their long activation on him rather than Janis.