The eyes of New York Giants fans are glued to the free agency of Saquon Barkley this offseason. Flying under the radar is another fascinating free agency for a key Giant, safety Xavier McKinney.
Will the Giants give McKinney, who turns 25 in August, a big-money second contract? Or, will tell him — politely, we hope — to go fish and find his money elsewhere?
Reasons to keep McKinney
Let’s start with a simple one. McKinney, who will turn 25 in August, is a really good player. The Giants are a 6-11 team with one playoff victory since the 2011 season. They really shouldn’t be in the business of jettisoning good players.
Coming off a down 2022 season in which he missed seven games thanks to a serious, self-inflicted hand injury suffered during a bye week mishap in Mexico, I said from the beginning that McKinney needed to put together a big year if he wanted to return to the Giants in 2024.
He did that.
McKinney played every defensive snap, joining linebacker Bobby Okereke with that impressive accomplishment. He had three interceptions and a career-high 11 passes defensed. McKinney had a career-best 116 tackles while missing just 6.5% of his tackle attempts. His 69.8 passer rating against was the second-best of his career, and best since his rookie year.
McKinney’s 87.8 Pro Football Focus grade was a career-high, as was his 91.2 PFF coverage grade. He was the league’s fourth-highest graded safety overall, and had the best coverage grade.
There is one other thing that works in favor of retaining McKinney — Wink Martindale is no longer the defensive coordinator. Maybe McKinney should not have voiced his displeasure with Martindale during the middle of the 2023 season. The Giants and McKinney tried to paper that over, but I’m almost certain that McKinney would not have even considered a return to the Giants if Martindale was still running the defense.
Reasons to let him go
This is all about money. McKinney considers himself a star, one of the best safeties in the game. He enters the offseason absolutely wanting to be paid as such.
There are 10 safeties in the NFL making at least $13 million annually. Derwin James of the Los Angeles Chargers tops that list at $19.133 million per year. Tenth on the list is Quandre Diggs of the Seattle Seahawks at an even $13 million annually.
McKinney is going to want to crack that list.
Spotrac estimates his value at five years, $52.4 million, or $10.4 million per season. PFF projects a three-year, $37.5 million deal, or $12.5 million per year.
How much is too much for McKinney? That is really the crux of the matter. Is he worth big-time top-10 safety money? If there are teams out there willing to give him that, will the Giants be willing to compete? Should they be willing to compete? Will McKinney have to settle for less?
Keep him — if you can. This is not the same situation the Giants were in a year ago, when they had Jason Pinnock ready to step in for Julian Love. They don’t have anyone who can easily replace McKinney, both in volume of snaps played and effectiveness.
PFF ranks McKinney 43rd on its list of the top 150 free agents this offseason:
McKinney’s coverage grades as a free safety (81.4) and in the box (79.4) are top-10 marks among safeties in 2023, and there is a big enough sample size of box play despite his general deployment as a deep player. Over the past three seasons, McKinney’s 7.0 yards allowed per target in coverage ranks top-25 among safeties, and his 17 combined interceptions and forced incompletions put him in the top 20. While he could make more plays at or near the line of scrimmage, he rarely whiffs on open-field tackles. The 24-year-old has missed just 7.8% of his tackle attempts over his career, 11th-best among 89 safeties with at least 100 tackles over the past four seasons, making him a reliable enough last line of defense.
The tricky part, as outlined above, is what to pay him. His career has been somewhat up and down. The good is really good, but there has also been a good bit of mediocrity during his career.
If the Giants can sign McKinney without having to pay a tippy-top of the safety market price, I’m good with that.
Should the Giants resign Xavier McKinney this offseason?
This poll is closed
Yes, he’s worth whatever price it takes
Yes, but only at a number below the $15.2 million Justin Simmons of Denver makes
No, let him go and use the money elsewhere