What’s Nixon Worth?

A year ago, the Las Vegas Raiders chose to release little-known defensive back Keisean Nixon rather than tender him as a restricted free agent. Today, the former South Carolina standout is a freshly-minted All-Pro kick returner and very likely GM Brian Gutekunst’s top priority to re-sign in the next couple of months. That begs the question, how much is he worth?

The Packers will need to be generous but also pragmatic. While Nixon was special in the second half of the season, a returner’s impact on a game can be minimized more easily than any other position. Week 18 was a good example. The Lions kicked high and short and got multiple players within a few yards of Nixon when he caught the ball. The result was four returns for an average of 19 yards. And teams with a strong-legged kicker could just boom the ball out of the end zone.

Nixon also returned punts last season, and while he was an upgrade from Amari Rodgers, a total of 11 attempts won’t move the needle in negotiations. Neither will his work on defense. The 25-year-old wasn’t bad in the slot, but he should be a No. 4 or 5 corner on a playoff-caliber team. That’s what he would figure to be with the Packers in 2023, considering Eric Stokes will be returning from injured reserve, Darnell Savage will be given every opportunity to justify the nearly $8 million he’s guaranteed, and adding talent to the secondary will probably be a priority in the early rounds of April’s draft.

So what’s Nixon worth? Atlanta’s Cordarrelle Patterson signed a two-year deal worth $10.5 million ($5M guaranteed) in 2022. The running back was also coming off a productive season on offense (over 1,100 total yards). What kept the price down was his age (31). Jacksonville wide receiver Jamal Agnew signed a three-year deal worth $14.25M ($4M guaranteed) in 2021. He was very close in age to Nixon and had a similar impact away from special teams. Ditto Jets’ wide receiver Braxton Berrios, who signed a two-year deal worth $12M ($7M guaranteed) in 2022 after being named first-team All-Pro.

The big difference between the four players is experience. Patterson returned 258 kicks before signing his contract, Agnew was at 138, and Berrios was at 87. Nixon’s total is 51. That should keep his deal in line with theirs, even though the salary cap has increased considerably in the past two offseasons. The projection here is that Green Bay’s first All-Pro returner since Super Bowl XXXI MVP Desmond Howard in 1996 will re-sign for two years and $9.6M with $4.5M guaranteed).

Nixon may sign for more than two years, but that’s been the most common length for at least the past decade. Most general managers are reluctant to commit long-term to a player who does a job that is so physically demanding. Plus, with rare exceptions – Patterson comes to mind immediately – the best returners don’t stay on top for long. Howard is a great example. Just a couple of years after reaching the highest of highs, he was a journeyman shuffling from team to team.

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Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.

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Bryan Johnson
Bryan Johnson
January 17, 2023 4:02 pm

What Nixon did was special but it’s too small a sample size to commit big money long term. Don’t let him leave, but 1-2 years feels like where it needs to be.

January 17, 2023 6:05 pm

I’d liked to see more of Nixon in Green Bay but he doesn’t have the age or history with Rodgers unfortunately to warrant his (Rodgers) endorsement, so my guess is the money goes to the old folks home.

January 18, 2023 2:01 pm

While it would be great to have Nixon back, I’m not actually convinced he really is an All-Pro return guy for the next couple of seasons. Or maybe he is, but I think Bisaccia’s blocking schemes helped him a lot. What he did was amazing but I wouldn’t be surprised if he what he did is similar to what Rasul did – have a really special burst during a year that he was signed on the cheap and was going to be a pending FA.

To my mind, the number one priority to re-sign is Amos. Hopefully with his age they can bring him back on a 1-year, reasonable contract so that he can mentor whoever they bring in in the early rounds. It’s about the position more than the talent but I do see Amos as an important, steadying presence even while his play clearly took a dip this year.

I don’t see much in the way of “must re-sign’s” on this roster – which is a good thing. I think TE should be their number 1 priority.

January 19, 2023 9:13 pm

Going back to the drafting of Love, I was fully in agreement with Rodgers anger with the Packers front office, after all they had just gone to a championship game and needed a few defensive pieces to make another run at the Super Bowl and you trade up and draft a QB in round 1. Rodgers up until they point had given the team years of great play and had no intention of retiring anytime soon thus a slap in his face on national TV. The least they should have done was to tell him if we have the opportunity to draft a QB with exciting potential we may do that to secure the team’s future. But they didn’t . The animosity still exists in my option. Gutey needs to put on his big boy pants…..he started it and now he needs to finish it.
Although I’ve been a huge fan of Rodgers, the time to trade him was last year for many reasons but I understand, trading trading away a player who might take another team to the SuperBowl takes balls. Now Rodgers is making more demands on named players being brought back.
If love can’t play you trade him away so he can start his career but if you think he can play it’s time to move on irregardless if Rodgers goes to another team and wins it all. That’s what good GMs should do

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