Packers 2023 free agency tracker: All-Pro Keisean Nixon among special-teamers coming back

All-Pro kick returner Keisean Nixon has agreed to stick with the Green Bay Packers on a one-year deal. AP Photo/Morry Gash

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2023 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our experts. The new league year began March 15 at 4 p.m. ET. The first round of the 2023 NFL draft begins April 27 on ESPN.

The Green Bay Packers don’t expect to be big players in free agency because of all the salary cap challenges they face, but they hope to re-sign some of their key players who have been major contributors, while also sprinkling in a few newcomers for the right price.

Here's a breakdown of every 2023 NFL free agent signing by the Packers, and how each will impact the upcoming season:

Dallin Leavitt, safety

Leavitt has re-signed with Green Bay.

What it means: The Packers are committed to running it back with as much of their special teams players from last season as possible. They’ve already re-signed All-Pro kick returner Keisean Nixon, plus coverage/blocking players Eric Wilson, Corey Ballentine and Rudy Ford. They also added long-snapper Matt Orzech (from the Rams) and core special-teamer Tarvarius Moore (from the 49ers). Leavitt, who has been with special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia since their days with the Raiders, played in every game for the Packers last season and tied for the team lead with 13 special teams tackles.

What's the risk: If Leavitt is active on game days, the Packers will be using a spot for someone who plays almost exclusively on special teams. Despite being active for every game last season, Leavitt didn’t play a single snap on defense.

Eric Wilson, linebacker

The special-teamer is back with the Packers

What it means: More reinforcements for special teams coordinator Bisaccia. While Wilson played only 35 snaps on defense, he was one of the core special teams players. He tied for the team lead in special teams tackles with 13 despite not joining the team until Oct. 4. In limited work on defense, he had four tackles and a sack. Before joining the Packers, he spent five seasons with the Minnesota Vikings (2017-20), Philadelphia Eagles (2021) and Houston Texans (2021).

What's the risk: Wilson is no guarantee to make the roster and will have to win a job in training camp/preseason this summer.

Justin Hollins, linebacker

Hollins has agreed to stay in Green Bay.

What it means: Insurance in case Rashan Gary (ACL) isn’t ready for Week 1 and depth whenever Gary returns. Hollins was productive in six games after being claimed off waivers from the Rams in late November. He had 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hits and three tackles for loss. He provides a veteran presence, having played in 55 career games combined for the Broncos, Rams and Packers.

What's the risk: Hollins is no guarantee to make the roster and will have to win a job in training camp/preseason this summer.

Tarvarius Moore, safety

Moore joins the Packers after spending his first four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

What it means: The Packers probably still need a starting-caliber safety given his relative lack of playing time on defense (just 41 snaps in 13 games last season). However, he played extensively on special teams with 218 snaps. Of his 61 career regular-season games, he has started only 13 times. The Packers aren’t going to re-sign Adrian Amos, in all likelihood, but this still doesn’t adequately replace him. Moore, a third-round pick of the 49ers in 2018, has only one career interception -- it came in Super Bowl LIV off Patrick Mahomes.

What’s the risk?: Injury. He missed the entire 2021 with a torn Achilles. If they’re not counting on him to be a big part of the defense, it’s probably a decent signing.

Keisean Nixon, kick returner/defensive back

Nixon and the Packers agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth up to $6 million.

What it means: Nixon singlehandedly changed the Packers’ return game in the second half of the season, begging many to question why it took special teams coordinator Bisaccia and coach Matt LaFleur to make the change. But when they did, it was instant success. Nixon led the NFL with five kickoff returns of 50-plus yards last season; no other player had more than two. He led the NFL with a 28.8-yard kickoff return average, including a 105-yard touchdown return. And he did it all beginning in Week 12. He was named a first-team All-Pro, becoming the first Packers kickoff returner to earn such a designation. He also has the chance to be a rotational player among the cornerbacks.

What's the risk: The risk was in not bringing him back and then dealing with another Amari Rodgers situation, where the team spends a third-round pick on a return man who can’t hang on to the ball and then has to be cut midseason. And it’s only a one-year deal, so if Nixon can’t repeat his magic from last season, then they’re not bound to him for multiple years.

Rudy Ford, safety

Ford is re-signing with the Packers.

What it means: With Adrian Amos unsigned and not likely to return, the Packers are stockpiling options at safety. Ford was a late acquisition at the end of training camp last year and went on to play in all 17 games, including a career-high six starts. Although he was unable to keep a starting job full-time, he had a career-high three interceptions, including two in the overtime win over the Cowboys. He also played extensively on special teams and had four tackles.

What's the risk: Ford is no guarantee to make the roster and will have to win a job in training camp/preseason this summer.

Corey Ballentine, cornerback

The Packers are re-signing Ballentine.

What it means: Special teams coordinator Bisaccia must’ve liked what he did last season after he was promoted from the practice squad. While he made only one tackle on defense in eight games, he had four tackles and a forced fumble on special teams. He also has previous experience as a kick returner during his four-year career.

What's the risk: Little or none because he’s not guaranteed to make the roster. He will have to win a spot again in training camp.

Tyler Davis, tight end

The Packers are bringing back Davis, a restricted free agent.

What it means: The Packers still believe Davis has potential, despite minimal production over the past two seasons. While he played in 14 games last season, his production was minimal (four catches for 35 yards). He was a regular special teams contributor, where he made four tackles. But he didn’t make the jump the Packers hoped he would at this point last year. Davis was a restricted free agent, but the Packers decided not to tender him, which means they wanted to sign him for less than the minimum RFA tender of $2.627 million.

What's the risk: This is a value signing, so there’s not much risk. And the Packers surely know they still have significant work to do at this position, considering veterans Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis are both unsigned free agents.

Matt Orzech, long-snapper

The former Los Angeles Rams long-snapper agreed to join the Packers.

What it means: Jack Coco has competition. As a rookie last season, Coco was serviceable but inconsistent. The Packers tried to get Orzech once before (May of 2021) after he was waived by the Titans after spending the previous season with the Jaguars. The Packers put in a waiver claim on Orzech at that point, but he was awarded to the Rams because they were higher on the priority list coming off a 10-6 season and the Packers were 13-3. Orzech went on to play the next two seasons with the Rams, including the 2021 Super Bowl year.

What's the risk: That the Packers keep changing specialists and fail to develop continuity. It’s possible they could have a new snapper and kicker if they don’t re-sign franchise scoring leader Mason Crosby. Last season, Crosby dealt with a new holder (punter Pat O’Donnell) and snapper (Coco).