We learned on Wednesday that the Packers have chosen to place tight end Andrew Quarless on the IR/designated to return as a result of his MCL sprain.
The #Packers have placed TE Andrew Quarless (MCL sprain) on IR/Designated-to-return. A little bit of a surprise. But they clearly value him
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 30, 2015
The IR with designation to return allows the Packers to clear a roster spot for eight weeks while Quarless heals (he can begin practicing after six weeks). It is a designation that was introduced in 2012 to allow players who had serious injuries to return while creating a roster spot in their absence. Rapoport says it’s “a little bit of a surprise” because it is. And it’s a little bit of a gamble.
Each team gets one shot. One player per season can be given that designation. In week three the Packers have used their one and only IR designated to return.
Hard to believe #Packers wasted that designation on Quarless. What if a starter gets hurt? Cobb was hurt in Week 6 when they used it in '13.
— Tom Silverstein (@TomSilverstein) September 30, 2015
Tom Silverstein asks a legitimate question. A backup tight end with two receptions for 14 yards this year now is the one player IRed who can return. On a team that has lost its number one receiver already, and is one wide receiver injury away from being dangerously thin at the position, it seems curious that the Packers went this route.
From this point on if a starter goes down the Packers will need to keep him on the roster if they want him to play at all for the rest of the year. They won’t be able to make a roster move to replace him. As Silverstein points out, when Cobb went down in week 6 of 2013, the Packers used the IR recall to bring him back later in the year.
Quarless certainly has value on a team with little tight end depth. While Richard Rodgers has emerged as the starter and is growing in the offense, without other viable options on the 53 right now, Quarless is important to the Packers. But is he important enough to use the IR recall?
Richard Rodgers is the starting tight end and looks to be the only tight end capable of becoming a playmaker. Quarless, Kennard Beckman and Justin Perillo are just “guys”. None of them is going to be a huge game changer. So why burn the tag now? There are several positions where an injury will cause significant issues including offensive line, receiver, and running back. Injuries to starters there would cause huge problems. Being able to bring back a player while preserving a roster spot could be key to a playoff run. Remember just how key Randall Cobb was in 2013.
With Backman already on the 53 and inactive last week, the Packers could have waited a couple of weeks on Quarless (by activiating Backman and deactivating Quarless) to be sure that the tag wasn’t needed on a more important player. The consequence would be to delay Quarless’ return to the active roster (he can only play after 8 weeks once being given the IR recall designation). But would a couple more weeks without Quarless have been such a dramatic loss considering the gamble of not having the short term IR option?
While hopefully the injuries will stop, by using the IR recall now the Packers could have handcuffed themselves for weeks to come. Quarless was a questionable choice especially given how early it is in the season.