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5 things learned Monday at the 2024 NFL Annual Meeting

Notes on contract talks with Jordan Love, Packers’ new additions and Keisean Nixon

General Manager Brian Gutekunst
General Manager Brian Gutekunst

ORLANDO – Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst spoke on Monday morning at the NFL Annual Meeting. Here are five things we learned:

  1. There's no timeline on an extension with Jordan Love, but the Packers are excited to enter into negotiations with their star quarterback.

Gutekunst confirmed preliminary talks are underway between the organization and Love's representatives, though the two sides can't reach a formal agreement until at least May 3 due to the extension Love signed one year ago.

Even then, the Packers aren't using that date as their compass for striking a deal with the 25-year-old quarterback, who threw for 4,159 yards and 32 touchdowns during his first year as a starter.

"Certainly, the sooner, the better," said Gutekunst when asked about getting a contract done. "But at the same time, we want to make sure we do it the right way. We've started but it's not something that's going to go quickly. It'll take some time."

While Love only has one starting season on his resume, Gutekunst said the Packers have the utmost confidence in the QB's long-term outlook. That comfort begins with the massive strides Love made last season while guiding Green Bay back to the playoffs after a one-year absence.

The other part of that equation is everything the Packers have learned about Love, the man, since trading up in 2020 to draft him 26th overall.

"The nice thing about having a guy in your building for the last four years is you absolutely know who he is," Gutekunst said. "Again, there's no guarantees that anything going forward, but we know how he's going to respond and how he's going to react and how he's going to work instead of signing a player that has not been in your building and guaranteeing all that to him.

"Certainly having four years with him I think gives us a lot of comfort and what he's all about and how his teammates look at him and the organization looks at him."

  1. Free agency took some unexpected turns, but Packers are thrilled to add Xavier McKinney and Josh Jacobs to the roster.

As the free-agent dominoes began to fall, Green Bay jumped at the opportunity to sign two of the NFL's top free agents earlier this month.

A move at safety was somewhat expected considering Darnell Savage, Rudy Ford and Jonathan Owens were all unrestricted free agents. As it turned out, McKinney also hit the open market after four productive years with the New York Giants.

Gutekunst said the Packers scouted McKinney extensively leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft. Still only 24 years old, the 6-foot, 201-pound safety has already played 3,025 regular-season snaps while amassing 279 tackles, 27 passes defensed and nine interceptions in 49 games with 46 starts.

"We had a number of players where we said, if these guys do become available, I think we have to consider bringing them and trying to acquire them," Gutekunst said. "A lot of those players, before we got to the actual date, were gone by that time, either re-signed or franchised and things like that and he wasn't, so we aggressively pursued it. … We're just really excited. His next three years should be the best football he plays in our mind and we're excited about that."

The Packers landing Jacobs came as one of the more surprising moves of the offseason, as it appeared Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones would be returning to Green Bay for an eighth season.

When the two sides couldn't come to an agreement on a contract restructure, the Packers began surveying the running back landscape. With the Raiders opting not to tag Jacobs, Green Bay opened talks with the 26-year-old running back who was one season removed from leading the NFL in rushing.

Shortly thereafter, The Packers struck a deal with Jacobs and released Jones, who has since signed with Minnesota.

"Up until that Monday, you don't really have an idea of whether they're going to be re-signed or if they were tagged," Gutekunst said. "We never take anything off the table, even with Aaron. … But once we got into Monday afternoon and we realized there was going to be an opportunity to sign a player like Josh, that was something I didn't feel we could pass up."

  1. Re-signing Keisean Nixon to a long-term contract was a big deal for both Green Bay's defense and special teams.

In fact, one of Jeff Hafley's first tasks as the Packers' new defensive coordinator was reviewing Nixon's 809 regular-season snaps at nickel cornerback last season and determining whether the fifth-year veteran would be in fit in his incoming scheme.

Needless to say, Hafley liked what he saw from Nixon's first year as a full-time defensive starter, a season in which he racked up 80 tackles, six passes defensed and collected his first NFL interception.

"We're excited for what he can do for our defense," said Gutekunst of Nixon's return. "I think bringing in Jeff Hafley and give him some time to study Keisean and make sure that that was a fit was important. He's very excited to have him back, as well."

A former college free agent, Nixon followed special-teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia from Las Vegas to Green Bay in 2022. Since then, Nixon has become one of only four players to earn first-team AP All-Pro honors at kick returner in back-to-back years. The importance of that production could grow in the months ahead, as the NFL pushes to reestablish the kickoff return.

Meanwhile, Nixon also remains the favorite to start at nickel this season. Gutekunst reiterated the importance of competition but acknowledged Nixon's performance and durability last season make him the leading candidate.

"I certainly feel really good about Keisean and what he did as a first-year (starter) with that many snaps in the nickel and where he's headed," Gutekunst said. "Having some stability there is something that gives me some peace."

  1. Gutekunst is bullish on Isaiah McDuffie and the Packers' inside linebackers.

Green Bay's pending switch to a 4-3 base defense has put its inside linebackers in the limelight this offseason, especially after the release of De'Vondre Campbell earlier this month.

While the Packers expect big things from former first-round pick Quay Walker, there are two other starting positions available in the base defense. At first glance, it would appear fourth-year linebacker Isaiah McDuffie is a strong candidate to fill a major void.

Due to injuries to Walker and Campbell, McDuffie wound up starting eight of the 16 regular-season games in which he played. His 86 tackles (five for a loss) were second most on defense, while adding a ½ sack and pass deflection.

In addition to re-signing veterans Eric Wilson and Kristian Welch, it's likely the Packers will add another inside linebacker through the NFL Draft or free agency (and perhaps both). Still, Gutekunst likes how the room is coming together.

"I feel really good about Isaiah," Gutekunst said. "We obviously signed Eric Wilson back. We signed Kristian Welch back. Two guys who were here last year, played a lot on teams. Eric's got a pretty extensive history playing linebacker in this league. I feel much better now. But again, we'll add, I'm sure, whether it's the draft or later on in free agency, I'm sure we'll add to that competition in that room."

  1. While sad to see Aaron Jones go, Packers were happy to keep AJ Dillon under unique qualifying offer.

Gutekunst opened his 25-minute media scrum by addressing the decision to release Jones, the third-leading rusher in team history. It undoubtedly was one of the most difficult decisions Gutekunst has made in his six years as Green Bay's GM.

"Obviously, the business of football never stops," Gutekunst said. "Any player that's committed to it the way he has for our football team, just the way he was in our locker room and obviously a very productive player, it's always tough. But I think over time, you get used to it. That's just kind of the business of football, but we wish him well. He couldn't have represented us any better in his time with us. But very tough."

While Jones departs, Green Bay was able to retain Dillon under the rarely used "four-year qualifying offer." The clause allows players to earn more money than what's counted against the cap if they've played at least four consecutive years with a club.

A second-round pick in 2020, Dillon battled through a neck injury and broken thumb that sidelined him for four games. The 25-year-old running back finished with 836 yards from scrimmage with two touchdowns on 200 touches.

"It was really nice to get AJ back. I don't think we expected that as we went into it," Gutekunst said. "We did have the luxury of the four-year qualifying offer, which is a unique rule in the CBA that I really think is a great benefit for players that have been a place for four years and guys who are core players that maybe you have the ability to retain them that you wouldn't have had in the past."