Packers facing decision on Jeff Janis' special-teams value
ORLANDO, Fla. - Several hours before the NFL’s roster submission deadline last September, the New England Patriots made a move to acquire defensive back Johnson Bademosi from the Detroit Lions in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2019.
Officially listed as a cornerback, Bademosi knew coach Bill Belichick coveted the former Stanford Cardinal for his special-teams ability rather than his modest coverage skills. By season’s end, Bademosi would have played more snaps on special teams (280) than he did from scrimmage (215) and led the Patriots in special teams tackles with nine.
Fast forward to March 16, 2018, and Bademosi turned his one-year stint with the Patriots into a gaudy contract with the Houston Texans, who doled out $6.25 million over two years with $3.25 million guaranteed.
The deal, according to the Houston Chronicle, broke down as follows:
» $1 million roster bonus that has already been paid.
» $1.25 million in fully guaranteed base salary for 2018.
» $2.5 million non-guaranteed base salary for 2019.
» $15,625 per-game active roster bonus.
» $100,000 base salary de-escalator annually if he fails to complete workouts.
“Philosophically I say there’s rare players that actually affect the game in that way,” Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said at the annual league meetings when asked a general question about expert special teamers. “When you find them, I think they’re exceptionally important to have. There’s just not a lot of them out there.”
Bademosi’s new contract places him in the upper echelon of special-teams aces, and the Patriots replaced him by re-signing wide receiver Matthew Slater to a two-year deal worth $5.2 million. Slater has been among the league’s best special teamers since the Patriots drafted him in the fifth round in 2008.
All of this is relevant to the Packers because one of their own receivers, Jeff Janis, became an unrestricted free agent earlier this month. Janis, a former seventh-round pick, had been reduced to special-teams duties after the coaches stripped the small number of reps he had from scrimmage in 2016. Janis finished 2017 with 59.3 percent playing time on special teams and 4.8 percent playing time on offense, with 42 of his 50 total snaps at receiver coming after the Packers were eliminated from playoff contention.
Two weeks have passed since free agency opened March 14, and the market has been quiet for Janis. At this point, he remains unsigned.
Gutekunst and his personnel department must decide if Janis is among the "rare players" whose special-teams value trumps the inability to contribute from scrimmage. And if Janis fits that mold, how much are the Packers willing to pay?
Janis made only four special-teams tackles last season, which was tied for fourth on the team. Safety Marwin Evans led the Packers with nine.
“It does create some roster flexibility issues if they’re not position players as well,” Gutekunst said. “But at the same time, it’s a big part of the game. So if they can affect the game in a positive manner like that, it’s certainly something we would look at.”