Green Bay in Brazil? What we learned about the Packers at NFL’s annual meeting


ORLANDO — Packers president Mark Murphy said Tuesday that the NFL is deciding between the Packers and Browns to face the Eagles in Brazil next season.

Philadelphia is the designated home team for the league’s first-ever game in Brazil, which will be played in São Paulo on the Friday night of Week 1 and be televised on Peacock. Green Bay is scheduled to be the away team in a game against the Eagles and that game could be played abroad instead of in Philadelphia. The Packers played in a foreign country for the first time in 2022 when they were the “home team” against the Giants in London.

Though the Packers appear to have a significant fanbase in Brazil, Murphy pointed out one potential drawback in the league sending the Packers there. Feel free to judge for yourself how much of a drawback it actually is.

“We’re very supportive of international play,” Murphy told local reporters at the NFL’s annual league meeting. “The one issue with Green Bay, though, are the size of our airport and the size of our runway and we wanna make sure that we’re not at a competitive disadvantage in terms of how long it’s gonna take us to get to Brazil. There’s some thought that we might have to bus to Milwaukee and then fly, just some of those things. And I anticipate probably within the week we’ll find out, so it’s either us or Cleveland. If they choose us, then we’ll welcome it. It’ll be exciting. It’ll be the first game ever in Brazil and it’ll be exciting, but wanna make sure that some of those things are worked out.”

New kickoff rule

The NFL approved a new hybrid kickoff rule by a 29-3 vote Tuesday. The details of it are here:

The Packers were one of the three teams to vote against the rule, which two-time defending first-team All-Pro kick returner Keisean Nixon loves.

“Our issue was that it was such a major change,” Murphy said. “My thought, our thought, was it would make sense really to have maybe as a trial or as an experiment in the preseason to see what — there’s gonna be some unintended consequences. I just felt it made sense to have a trial. But that said, it passed. I think it was overwhelming. It was like 29-3. Yeah, we’ll be very supportive of it and we have one of the better kick returners in the league, so we’ll put that to our advantage.”

New kicker

After general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur spoke in Orlando, agent Brett Tessler announced on X that the Packers signed his client, kicker Greg Joseph. While we don’t get to hear from Gutekunst or LaFleur on adding a kicker, Green Bay now has a veteran one to compete with second-year kicker Anders Carlson, who struggled down the stretch last season and missed a crucial kick in the Packers’ eventual season-ending Divisional Round loss to the 49ers.

Joseph, 29, has been in the league since 2018 and kicked for the Browns, Titans and most recently the Vikings for the last three seasons. He’s a career 82.6-percent field-goal kicker (100-for-121) with a 22-of-30 clip from 40-49 yards and a 16-of-28 clip from 50-plus. Joseph made 24-of-30 field-goal attempts last season. He’s also a career 146-of-162 on PATs and went 36-of-38 on extra points last season while Carlson led the NFL in missed PATs as a rookie.

Safety valve

Gutekunst said the Packers extensively scouted Xavier McKinney at Alabama before he became a Giants second-round pick in 2020 and “liked him quite a bit” coming out of college. Now, McKinney is Green Bay’s prized free-agent signing after the Giants, perhaps surprisingly, didn’t tag the 24-year-old ahead of free agency.

“I just think he’s a unique player to come available,” Gutekunst said. “He’s 24 years old, one of the top safeties in the game, a guy who can be a game-changing-type player. He really kind of fits a little bit of the criteria we’re looking for in a free agent, not only as a player but as a leader back there. Obviously, extensively scouted him through college and liked him quite a bit coming out. He’s done nothing in his time in the NFL to change that. Again, not a lot of these guys become available, so when they do, I think it’s important for us always to go down that road to see if we can acquire him.”

McKinney gives new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley a cornerstone of his defense and the free safety (and versatile defensive back capable of playing three positions in the middle of the secondary) that Hafley’s one-high defenses are predicated on.

“I think you rely on the safety for so many things,” LaFleur said. “First of all, just the communication on the back end’s absolutely critical, making sure we get all 11 on the same page and that’s usually the last line of defense. You get past the safety, there’s nobody left. And I love just his ability to make plays on the ball … you’ve seen it over the course of his career, but in particular, two plays that stick out to me were in that Philly game where he makes an unbelievable interception on the sideline and then the very next play they try to run a screen and he dissects the screen and jumps in front and picks off the ball. Like back-to-back plays with two interceptions. Any time you have a guy who can take the ball away, I mean that just is what you’re looking for in all your players, especially on the defensive side of the ball.”

When asked if he wants to pair McKinney with a veteran or young guy, Gutekunst said he’d always prefer a younger player with his best football ahead of him but will weigh all options. Gutekunst said he thinks this year’s draft has a “pretty good” safety class.

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Nixon returning

While the Packers’ two biggest free-agent signings came from outside the organization in Jacobs and McKinney, Gutekunst said re-signing Nixon was a “high priority” and that having stability at the nickel cornerback position with Nixon gives him peace.

Nixon is best known for his All-Pro kick returner ability, but he played the third-most defensive snaps on the team last season in by far the most defensive playing time of his five-year career.

“He did such a good job for us in his first year as a starting nickel and playing that many snaps on defense,” Gutekunst said. “We certainly think his best football is ahead of him. We’re excited for what he can do for our defense. I think bringing in Jeff Hafley and giving 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. Certainly, the kick return stuff was an added part of this. Having some stability within our secondary, I think the nickel position, in general, has become more and more important in our league. And having a guy who can do multiple things there, not only cover but be an instinctual guy who can take the ball away and also play against the run just because of how much those guys are involved.”

LaFleur added that new defensive passing game coordinator Derrick Ansley and returning defensive backs coach Ryan Downard were “really excited” about watching Nixon’s 2023 tape at nickel.

“He’s a big guy for the position — he’s 200 pounds or whatever,” LaFleur said. “His willingness to fit in the run fits, whether it’s an A-gap or B-gap, stick his nose in there and then also his ability to play man coverage. Certainly, there’s going to be some elements to our scheme that are going to be different. He’s going to have to learn the new scheme. He’s played in this style of system before with the Raiders when Gus Bradley was there, so he’s familiar with some of the things that are going to be asked (of) him.”

Murphy’s law

After the Packers’ annual shareholders meeting in July, Murphy said we were about to see more of LaFleur’s real offense with Jordan Love at the helm. What did the boss in Green Bay think of Love’s debut season starting?

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“I think pretty damn good,” Murphy said with a chuckle. “I’m really happy for obviously Jordan, the way he played, and not only the level he played at — especially as the season got on, he just seemed to get more and more confident — but his leadership. We saw that throughout the offseason and certainly during the season, so I’m really, really pleased with the way he’s played and I just think the future is really bright.”

Murphy is equally as pleased with the jobs LaFleur and Gutekunst have done in helping the Packers get to where they currently stand.

“It’s been great,” Murphy said. “If you had told me a year ago we’d be here in the playoffs — we lost to the 49ers, but we were in that position — yeah, I can’t say enough good things about both Matt and Brian and Russ Ball (executive VP and director of football operations) is a key part of that, as well, but the way Matt and Brian work together, it really bodes well for the future.”

(Photo: Larry Radloff / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)





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