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Packers 2018 Free Agent WRs: Is it time to end the Jeff Janis experiment?

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Is it time for the Packers to move on from a fan favorite? And how do they handle a player like Geronimo Allison?

Los Angeles Rams v Green Bay Packers
Packers fans love Jeff Janis, but if Green Bay doesn’t view him as a viable receiver, will another NFL team?
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Over the next two weeks, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2017 season. Today, we examine the wide receiver position.

In 2018, the Packers have three players at the wide receiver position whose contracts will expire. Two of those players are likely to return for 2018, given their status as exclusive-rights free agents. One, however, is very much a question mark given his special teams contributions over the years.

Jeff Janis

NFL Experience: 4 years
FA Status: Unrestricted free agent
Expiring Contract: 4 years, $2.27 million
2017 Stats: 16 games play, 2 catches, 12 yards, 3 kick returns, 43 yards, 4 special teams tackles

No one’s fans on Twitter or in the comment section ride harder for a player whose team has decided he can’t play than Janis. It doesn’t feel that long ago the Packers were benching Davante Adams, an inconsistent rookie second-round pick, for Janis, the physical specimen loaded with upside.

Now, the Packers only put Janis in the game on offense in blowouts or in extreme injury situations. Even with the season over and Brett Hundley under center, Mike McCarthy put rookie UDFA Michael Clark in the starting lineup over the more experienced Janis.

If he wants to be back as a special teams gunner — and he’s one of the best in the league — he may continue having a home in Green Bay. More than likely though, a team will hope he can be turned into something and try to pay him like a receiver.

In that case, he’s gone.

Geronimo Allison

NFL Experience: 2 years
FA Status: Exclusive-rights free agent
Expiring Contract: 2 years, $990,000
2017 Stats: 15 games played (2 starts), 23 catches, 253 yards (and one season-ending fumble)

Like just any any of the Packers receivers in 2017, any grade has to be given on a rather large Brett Hundley-shaped curve.

Davante Adams showing out with Hundley serves as proof that Adams’ 2016 was no fluke. For the rest of these receivers, Allison included, ‘17 proved, if nothing else, they need Rodgers to elevate them.

Allison came into the season looking quicker, more explosive, and potentially more dynamic, but had issues with drops and the key fumble on the potential game-tying drive against the Panthers in Rodgers’ lone game back from injury.

No one will mistake Allison for a top-tier outside receiver. He’s not. But he’s a solid rotational player with size and good feel for the game. With Rodgers, he’s a solid backup receiver who can contribute as a starter in a pinch and be a premium WR4.

Expect the Packers to tender him and then work toward a multiple-year deal worth $3-4 million.

Michael Clark

NFL Experience: 1 year
FA Status: Exclusive-rights free agent
Expiring Contract: 1 year, $465,000
2017 Stats: 2 games played, 4 receptions, 41 yards

Meet the new Janis. He’s already populating comment threads and bubbling up in conversation on Packers Twitter. At 6’6 217 pounds, Clark captured the imagination of fans and coaches. He flashed some outstanding talent, including a diving catch against the Vikings.

But he also struggled to win make relatively straight forward grabs and contested catches, the kind he’ll have to make to reach his full potential in the NFL.

Considering he’s a former basketball player with one year of college experience and a year on the practice squad, the sky is the limit for this 22-year-old some fans already want to add weight and become a tight end.

To them I say, let him try to earn reps outside, hone his craft, and maybe he can reach his ceiling in a way Janis never could.

One thing is for sure: the Packers will have to give him a roster spot to hold onto him. There’s no more sneaking him on the practice squad after the Vikings had to put Xavier Rhodes on Clark because Trae Waynes couldn’t cover him.

Green Bay may not even waste time tendering him, and could move right to a contract offer. If his agent is smart, he’ll look for a one or two-year deal and hope Clark can improve enough to see meaningful snaps with Rodgers. From there, we know what No. 12 can do to buoy the talent around him.