Packers re-sign Keisean Nixon: Why they brought back the nickel CB, All-Pro returner


The Packers are re-signing nickel cornerback and kick return Keisean Nixon, according to multiple reports, and seemingly according to a post from Nixon himself shortly after news broke. He was the No. 55 available free agent on Randy Mueller’s top 150 list and the 24th-best available player at the time of his deal breaking. Every team needs a nickel cornerback and Mueller dubbed Nixon the best one in this free-agent class, so the Packers might as well bring their own back.

How he fits

Nixon will again be the Packers’ nickel cornerback and primary kick return specialist. In 2023, he played 809 defensive snaps after playing only 562 in his first four NFL seasons combined. He proved he could be a reliable slot defender with plays like the crafty interception of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in Green Bay’s Week 13 win at Lambeau Field. Nixon is an electric kick returner and averaged 26.1 yards per kick return and amassed a league-leading 782 kick return yards, 271 more than anyone else. For the second consecutive season, he was named a first-team All-Pro kick returner and should ignite special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia’s kick return unit yet again — if teams are brave enough to kick him the ball, which wasn’t always the case last season.

Live updates: Free-agent news from across the NFL
FA tracker: New teams and contract details for the top 150 free agents
Best available players: Who’s still on the market?
Grades: Best and worst of free-agent deals

2024 impact

Kick returners are somewhat of a dying breed. Only two players qualified for TruMedia’s league leaderboard in yards per kick return because so few players had returned the requisite number of kickoffs. No matter what changes the league makes to kickoffs for next season, if any, Nixon is sure to be a factor. He also gives the Packers certainty at a position on defense with several questions entering free agency because of a lack of bodies. Besides two-time All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander, the Packers don’t have a surefire 2024 starter on the roster. Carrington Valentine held his own as a seventh-round rookie, but has he solidified a starting spot for 2024? Eric Stokes has barely played in the last season and a half with multiple injuries, so he’s no sure bet for playing time despite being a recent first-round pick. Corey Ballentine played admirably when called upon given his status in 2023 and re-signed with the Packers on Tuesday, but he’s meant to be an insurance plan. You can now pencil Nixon in as one of the five starters in the secondary, and don’t be surprised if the Packers further address the position in free agency and/or the draft.

GO DEEPER

Packers free agency review: Big cuts, major additions mark busy start for Green Bay

History

Nixon authored one of the most memorable moments in recent Packers history when he took a Vikings kickoff 105 yards to the house in Week 17 of the 2022 season to spark what ended in a Green Bay blowout win over Minnesota. That wasn’t the only time he’s energized the Packers with his return ability — a 94-yard kickoff return against the Dolphins on Christmas Day in 2022 and a 73-yard one against the 49ers in last season’s Divisional Round playoff game have done the same. Nixon hasn’t been great at nickel cornerback, per se, but he’s not a liability. There are plays like his interception of Mahomes, but there are also plays like one he was involved in the following week when he lost receiver Wan’Dale Robinson for a 32-yard gain on the Giants’ game-winning drive.

Outlook

Was Nixon the Packers’ most important signing this offseason? No, but he’s still an important one. His name won’t create the waves that those of running back Josh Jacobs and safety Xavier McKinney did on Monday, but he gives the Packers a starter on defense and a star on special teams who will help both Bisaccia and first-year defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley. NFL Network reported that Nixon’s contract is for three years and $18 million with a max earning value of $19.2 million. Let’s also wait for the breakdown to come on this one soon.

(Photo: Stacy Revere / Getty Images)





Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top