The Green Bay Packers spent last offseason trying to bring back as many of their key players as possible. While Davante Adams was ultimately traded, the Packers kept Aaron Rodgers, De’Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas as key components to the 2022 edition of the team.
While GM Brian Gutekunst didn’t have much salary cap room to bring in new players in free agency, he was active signing players who ultimately contributed to the team last season.
The emphasis was on improving the special teams and many of the free agents the Packers did sign had an impact in that area.
Grades are based on a combination of expectations and performance. Only players signed during the offseason are considered here so free agents signed after the season started like Justin Hollins are not included. Also, players the Packers re-signed are not included in this list.
Here is a look at the free agents the Packers signed prior to the 2022 season and how they impacted the team.
DL Jarran Reed
Reed signed with the Packers during the offseason after spending 2021 with the Kansas City Chiefs. He played in all 17 games for Green Bay and started 14.
Reed played 68 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and finished the year with 52 total tackles, 2.5 sacks and five tackles for loss. He also forced one fumble and recovered two while being credited with 14 quarterback hits.
The former Alabama star graded out fairly evenly as a run defender and pass defender. He was slightly above average in both categories according to Pro Football Focus. Reed got more pressure on the quarterback later in the season.
Reed was signed to a one-year deal and turned 30 in December. The Packers may try to bring him back if he agrees to play at a team-friendly rate.
DB Dallin Leavitt
Leavitt was brought in by special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia after playing under him with the Raiders.
The former Utah State star played in all 17 games for the Packers playing exclusively on special teams. He was an integral part of the team’s kick and punt return coverage units both of which improved over the course of the season.
Leavitt made 13 total tackles on special teams. In the preseason, he was a liability in pass coverage but never saw the field on defense once the regular season started.
Leavitt is also an unrestricted free agent this offseason and Gutekunst needs to determine whether to bring him back in 2023.
DB Keisean Nixon
Nixon was also signed primarily to help on special teams but he far exceeded expectations. He signed a one-year deal to rejoin Bisaccia and to provide depth in the secondary.
Nixon played in all 17 games and even started four in the secondary where his speed was an asset. He made 23 total tackles including one tackle for loss. He also broke up two passes and made his first career NFL interception.
But where Nixon really shined was as a return specialist. Although he didn’t take over until Week 10 after Amari Rodgers continued to struggle, Nixon led the league in kick return yards with 1,009 and averaged 28.8-yards per kick return. He also scored the Packers first return touchdown since Randall Cobb ran a kick back for a score in 2011.
Nixon also averaged 12.7-yards per punt return. His play as a return specialist gave the Packers improved field position and helped set up the offense for more points during their late season winning streak.
The Packers hope to re-sign Nixon who gave them a real jolt as a return specialist.
P Pat O’Donnell
The Packers signed the former Bear to bring more consistency to the punting game and for his reliability as a holder. He accomplished both roles and the Packers special teams were better in 2022.
O’Donnell averaged 44.5-yards per punt although he did have two punts blocked which was more due to poor blocking than any lack of speed getting his kicks off. He placed 24 punts inside the opponent’s 20 while having only one touchback on 52 punts.
As a holder, O’Donnell helped Mason Crosby enjoy a bounce back year.
O’Donnell was another of Bisaccia’s acquisitions and he worked out well.
LS Jack Coco
The Packers signed Coco in May after he did well on a tryout at rookie camp. The Georgia Tech alum was an upgrade at long snapper over the team’s poor play in 2021.
Coco was more consistent although he still had a few snaps that weren’t exactly where he wanted them but no major errors that led directly to turnovers or disasters.
He played all 17 games and is under contract for the next two seasons. Expect Coco to be back in training camp next season to defend his spot as the team’s long snapper.
S Rudy Ford
Ford was brought in primarily for special teams but started six games at safety and intercepted a career-high three passes. The Auburn alum was credited with 44 total tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery while breaking up three passes.
Ford graded out strongly in pass coverage when given the opportunity while also contributing on special teams.
He is an unrestricted free agent who Bisaccia and Gutekunst may wish to bring back in 2023.
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