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Wednesday Walkthroughs: What would you pay to keep Keisean Nixon?

APC’s writers open up the checkbook for the dynamic returner.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Buffalo Bills Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Keisean Nixon has been one of the Packers’ biggest stars this season, exploding onto the scene after Amari Rodgers’ merciful departure for Houston. The problem? He’s a free agent after the year, and until this season he hasn’t made much of an impact.

So what do you pay him? We put that question to our writers. Here’s what they came up with.

Justis Mosqueda: Like a top returnman

I think the market for Nixon is something like two years for $12 million. Even then, there’s some wiggle room for even considering that a true second year of a contract or essentially a team option. I would pay that in a heartbeat. The more I look at the Packers’ roster and their cap space next season, the more I think they’re in a good spot. They just need to get on base with the ten or so roster openings that are up for grabs, as it stands today. $6 million for a fourth cornerback you don’t have to worry about, an elite kick returner and a punt returner who doesn’t run east and west every chance he gets sounds good to me.

Tex Western: Tack on a 3rd year

The Packers can open up plenty of cap space with contract restructures for the likes of Kenny Clark, Jaire Alexander, Preston Smith, Aaron Jones, and David Bakhtiari, assuming they don’t release either of the latter three players outright for cap purposes. That could easily make room for Nixon on a deal similar to what was described above. 2 years at $12 million? Sign me up. I’d even be willing to give him an extra year, say three years and $18 million, given that Nixon is still just 25 years old and has at least played adequately in the slot (passer rating against of 85.7 and PFF rating of 63.9). Besides, on a three-year deal, the Packers would surely structure it so that there’s an easy out after two years if he doesn’t live up to the contract.

Kris Burke: $Texas

The Packers finally have a returner. Don’t let him out of the building!

For real though, two years at around $12 million sounds right, as does Tex suggesting a third year. I’d argue that the Packers might or perhaps even should pay beyond market value given how long it has taken to get a legitimate returner.

Restructures are clearly coming and maybe they can even ask Aaron Rodgers since, you know, special teams kept them from a Super Bowl a year ago.

He’s a smart guy, allegedly. He should know this.

Paul Noonan: The 3rd year, whatever it takes.

Kick returners are a bit like inside linebackers. If you have an average one, fine, you take a knee, you get the ball at the 25, no big whoop. But if you happen to have an elite one? Hoo boy, that’s some serious value. The extra 15-75 yards you get on those special returns is yardage your offense doesn’t have to work for, and it has the knock-on effect, as we saw this week, of scaring teams into inefficient squib kicks. That’s 25 yards that doesn’t even show up in Nixon’s totals.

Free special teams yards are often a bargain on the market, but they’re every bit as valuable as standard yards. They should keep Nixon no matter what. They almost can’t overpay him.

Jon Meerdink: Three years, $18 million

I’ll put the dollar amount on the third year and add some additional details.

Devin Hester was counting almost $7 million against the Chicago Bears’ cap circa 2008. Nixon may not be Hester, but he’s plenty good enough, and a $6 million cap charge in 2023 and beyond would be a far smaller percentage than what Hester was counting in 2008.

Cordarrelle Patterson, another elite returner, has never signed a contract worth more than about $10 million, putting his cap charge a little lower than Hester’s on a per year basis.

Nixon is 25, is returning at an elite level, and also adds value on defense on spot duty as a nickel back. If you can keep him, do it, and don’t be afraid to pay.