5 free agents the Packers should prioritize keeping this offseason

The Green Bay Packers have 18 players without contracts entering the 2023 offseason. Some have expiring deals. Others have voiding contracts.

With a tight salary cap situation, the Packers must be picky about who they bring back on a new deal in 2023.

Here are five free agents the Packers should prioritize keeping this offseason:

CB/KR Keisean Nixon

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Not only did Nixon emerge as the NFL’s most dangerous kickoff returner over the final two and half months of the season, but he added a spark on punt returns and was reliable as a backup slot cornerback. Is there worry about Nixon – a first-team All-Pro in 2022 – being a one-hit wonder? Sure. But he’s still only 25 years old, and his explosiveness as a returner isn’t going away even if teams find ways of better corraling him in 2023. He helps field position, creates playmaking opportunities on special teams and can play in the slot in a pinch. The Packers found another diamond in the rough with Nixon, and now they need to find a way to keep him in Green Bay.

LB Eric Wilson

Wilson is probably closer to a replacement level backup inside linebacker, but his consistent ability on special teams should convince the Packers to keep him around in 2023. Over the final 11 games of 2022, Wilson proved to be a special teams ace, delivering 12 total tackles over 95 punt and kick coverage snaps and producing the Packers’ top special teams grade at Pro Football Focus. He’s only 28 years old and could provide a foundational piece for Rich Bisaccia’s special teams. The Packers recrafted the team’s roster philosophy regarding the third phase in 2022, so keeping Wilson after his terrific season should be a priority.

OT Yosh Nijman

This should be an easy one. Nijman is a restricted free agent and can be retained in 2023 through the restricted tender. More than likely, it will take the second-round tender to keep him. Given that Nijman has played quality snaps at both left and right tackle over the last two seasons, spending in the $5 million tender range should be a simple procedural decision in Green Bay. The Packers want to keep Elgton Jenkins inside at guard, turning Nijman into a likely starter once again in 2023. It’s even possible the Packers see Nijman – who is still only 27 years old – as a long-term option at left tackle. Another season’s worth of snaps should give the Packers a good idea of whether or not Nijman is worth a long-term contract.

S Rudy Ford

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The Packers signed Ford after final roster cutdowns thinking they were getting a special teams ace. While he was excellent for the third phase early, Ford emerged as an important part of Joe Barry’s defense down the stretch. He delivered a career-high three interceptions, including two crucial picks of Dak Prescott in a season-saving win over the Cowboys. Ford brings coverage speed to the back half of the defense and a willingness to play downhill against the run. While not a player the Packers should depend on as a full-time starter, Ford could be a terrific third safety who plays snaps on defense and contributes full-time on special teams.

OLB Justin Hollins

The Packers claimed Hollins off waivers from the Rams in November, and he gave the defense a capable backup edge rusher over the final six games. Long and athletic and experienced in Joe Barry’s defense, Hollins could provide a stabilizing force to the second unit of edge rushers in 2023, especially considering Rashan Gary’s injury status. While Hollins would ensure experienced depth at outside linebacker, his return wouldn’t prevent the Packers from investing a high draft pick at the position. A deal nearing the vet’s minimum would likely get it done.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire