"Pre-draft picture" is a position-by-position look at the Packers' roster heading into the 2022 NFL Draft. The series concludes with the specialists.
GREEN BAY – Mason Crosby is already getting to know his new holder pretty well.
That's because the Packers' new punter, and the veteran kicker's new holder, is living in Crosby's basement until his own home purchase is closed. Pat O'Donnell was signed in free agency to be the Packers' third punter in the last three seasons, a proven pro with a cold-weather pedigree following eight years in Chicago, and a track record as a consistent, successful holder.
It makes O'Donnell the first key, personnel-wise, to new special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia turning around the Packers' struggling third phase. Corey Bojorquez's effectiveness as a punter waned as the season wore on last year, and his holding for Crosby was an issue all year long.
O'Donnell didn't just arrive in Green Bay by happenstance, either. Four years ago, when Bisaccia first took over the Raiders' special teams, he eyed bringing in O'Donnell then. It didn't work out and O'Donnell stayed with the Bears for another four years.
"I heard some rumors in free agency," O'Donnell said of the past. "Obviously, they went a different direction, but this league is crazy how we end up on the same team a couple years down the road. As soon as I found out they were interested and having an opportunity to reconnect with Rich, it was a no-brainer for me to come up here."
The Packers have two other kickers on the roster in addition to Crosby, though General Manager Brian Gutekunst has indicated he wants an experienced veteran on a team he expects to be a contender. So it's still Crosby's job until further notice, with JJ Molson and Dominik Eberle battling for a backup spot this spring.
Take a look at the top specialist prospects heading into the 2022 NFL Draft.
Molson spent last season on Green Bay's practice squad while Eberle worked with Bisaccia with the Raiders, and Bisaccia has said he expects to take two kickers into training camp.
Additional competition at long snapper could be coming, too. Steven Wirtel took over midway through last season for Hunter Bradley, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Packers bring in an undrafted prospect for a look. Green Bay also has three seventh-round draft picks, if the personnel department has a keen eye on one candidate in particular.
Bisaccia's influence in personnel also has been felt with the addition of reserve cornerback and special-teams regular Keisean Nixon, a former Raider. He's potentially a new core player on the return and coverage units while the Packers look to revamp those groups.
Green Bay's top three tacklers on special teams from a year ago – safety Henry Black, linebacker Oren Burks and receiver Equanimeous St. Brown – are all gone. Cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles, a fifth-round pick last year, is the top returning tackler, along with tight end Tyler Davis, cornerback Rasul Douglas and linebacker Ty Summers.
Douglas re-signed after a standout year on defense, and it'll be interesting to see based on Bisaccia's track record and hints dropped by Head Coach Matt LaFleur if the Packers use more starters/regulars on offense or defense to help with special teams. The special-teams background of the Packers' late-round draft picks will be worth examining as well.