PFF picks CB/KR Keisean Nixon as one free agent Packers can’t lose

Of the 17 players with expiring contracts for the Green Bay Packers entering the 2024 offseason, Pro Football Focus believes cornerback and kickoff returner Keisean Nixon is the one free agent the team can’t afford to lose.

Nixon was the team’s starter in the slot all season and is now a two-time first-team All-Pro kickoff returner. His deal with the Packers officially voids in February.

From PFF’s Brad Spielberger: “Nixon’s 31 defensive stops were the sixth most among cornerbacks in 2023, and he averaged 27.5 yards per kick return with a long of 73 after averaging 28.8 in 2022 with a 105-yard touchdown scamper.”

Nixon signed a one-year deal worth a little over $4 million to return to the Packers last year. The team added four void years to help spread out his cap hit, but using the void-year cap mechanism means he’ll now add $1.48 million to the Packers’ salary cap as a dead money hit in 2024 as soon as his deal voids. Considering he’ll already cost the Packers something on the cap, bringing him back for another year makes sense both financially and from a roster-building standpoint.

Nixon’s value on special teams is undeniable. While his kickoff return yardage totals — he once again led the NFL with 782 return yards in 2023 — were slightly inflated by consistently taking the ball out of the end zone, Nixon has produced over 2,100 total yards as a kick and punt returner over the last two seasons. He is still a dynamic playmaking threat as a returner — his 73-yard kickoff return against the San Francisco 49ers set up a touchdown in the postseason. And he played almost 1,000 total defensive snaps over 19 games on defense.

Nixon did miss 15 tackles and allow 74 catches into his coverage. He gave up a completion percentage of 78.7 and a passer rating of 101.1 into his coverage, and he had as many penalties (five) as pass breakups. The Packers could probably use an upgrade in the slot for whomever the defensive coordinator is in 2024.

But at the right price, Nixon could be a valuable dime cornerback on a good defense and a game-changing dual-threat returner on special teams.

Given his prowess as a returner, Nixon may have other options come free agency. But he likes being in Green Bay and likes playing for special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, and the current construction of the cornerback room suggests playing time will be available.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire