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Pre-draft picture: All eyes will be on Packers' kicking competition

Several special-teams veterans have been re-signed

K Anders Carlson
K Anders Carlson

"Pre-draft picture" is a position-by-position look at the Packers' roster heading into the 2024 NFL Draft. The series concludes with the specialists.

GREEN BAY – The Packers didn't wait until the draft to set up a full-fledged kicking competition.

Just days after last season ended with an NFC Divisional playoff loss, during which Anders Carlson missed a pivotal 41-yard field goal with six minutes left that would've given the Packers a seven-point lead, Green Bay signed Jack Podlesny to compete with Carlson.

Then late last month, they brought veteran kicker Greg Joseph into the competition as well.

It's difficult to say how long three kickers will remain on the roster, but providing multiple options shows the Packers are demanding improvement over Carlson's performance as a rookie.

The sixth-round pick from Auburn started strong, going a perfect 7-for-7 on field goals and 10-for-10 on PATs in the first five games. But over the last 14 contests, including playoffs, he missed seven field goals and six extra points, completing a game without a miss only three times.

The Packers believe in Carlson's talent and mental makeup, and he'll be given every chance to keep his job. But after a rookie season in which no other kicker was signed, he'll be battling with in-house competition from the first day of OTAs.

Podlesny has yet to play in the NFL, signing as an undrafted rookie last year with Minnesota but getting released during training camp as the Vikings stuck with Joseph. Given that, he could be the odd man out if the Packers need a spot on the 90-man roster after the draft and undrafted free agency. Over 40 games at Georgia, Podlesny made 61-of-74 field goals (82.4%) and first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors.

Joseph has spent time with six teams over his six years in the league, first earning game action with Cleveland in 2018 and Tennessee in 2019 before becoming Minnesota's full-time kicker the last three seasons.

For his career, he's 100-of-121 on field goals (82.6%) and 146-of-162 on PATs (90.1%) in the regular season. In four playoff games, he hasn't missed any of his 14 kicks (two FGs, 12 PATs). His best season was his first with the Vikings, in 2020, when he went 33-of-38 on field goals (86.8%), including 7-of-9 from 50-plus yards. His career-long 61-yarder came in 2022.

At punter and long snapper, the Packers currently have just one of each on the roster. But competition being brought in at either spot can't be ruled out.

As a rookie, punter Daniel Whelan had a solid debut season, averaging 46.2 gross yards (39.7 net) on 57 punts with just five touchbacks and 18 inside the opponents' 20-yard line. In the playoffs, he placed three of four punts inside the 20. Whelan is the first Irish-born player in the NFL since 1985, and he spent time in the 2022 offseason with the Saints before earning All-XFL honors in 2023.

Long snapper Matt Orzech handled those duties throughout last year, his first in Green Bay, after one season with the Jaguars and two with the Rams. He's now played in 73 NFL games, including playoffs.

Elsewhere on special teams, the Packers have re-signed several key veterans, keeping much of their core unit intact. That list includes All-Pro returner Keisean Nixon, leading tackler in linebacker Eric Wilson, as well as linebacker Kristian Welch and cornerbacks Robert Rochell and Corey Ballentine. Tight end Tyler Davis, who ranked fourth on the 2022 team with 10 coverage tackles but missed last season due to a knee injury, also was re-signed.

Key departures on special teams include safety Jonathan Owens (Chicago), running back Patrick Taylor (San Francisco) and tight end Josiah Deguara (Jacksonville), while safety Rudy Ford remains unsigned.

Pre-Draft Roster Series:

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