Packers Named ‘Best Team Fit’ for Rising Safety With 9 Career Interceptions


Getty The Green Bay Packers could look to target one of the NFL's premier young safeties in free agency.

The Green Bay Packers might be forced to reshuffle the safety position this offseason, with Darnell Savage set to become one of the most coveted free agents at the position.

After the Packers allowed Savage’s contract to void, absorbing a $5.4 million dead-money charge in the process, the 26-year-old now appears earmarked to hit the open market when free agency begins on March 13.

Fortunately for general manager Brian Gutekunst and the Packers, there might be a player about to reach free agency who could conceivably be an upgrade on the back end of Green Bay’s defense.

ESPN’s Matt Bowen listed the Packers as the “best team fit” for New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney.

“This might be a stretch given the Packers’ history in free agency,” Bowen wrote. “But McKinney can play both safety spots, with the ability to cover down and create range in the post. He had three interceptions last season with the Giants, and I see him as a good fit for a Packers defense that will change its coverage and pressure tendencies under defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley.”

As Bowen pointed out, the Packers have historically not been big spenders in free agency, philosophically seeming to prefer building through the draft. However, McKinney could be the caliber of player capable of significantly elevating the ePackers’ defense.

Why Xavier McKinney Makes Sense for Packers

Originally chosen by the Giants in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, McKinney hasn’t just improved each season, but he’s had the most productive seasons of his career playing in Don “Wink” Martindale’s pressure-oriented scheme.

During a breakout 2023 season, McKinney produced a career-high 116 total tackles with half a sack, three interceptions, three interceptions, 11 pass breakups, and one forced fumble.

Viewed as one of the Giants’ best young players, the former University of Alabama standout is a candidate for New York to use the franchise tag on, to keep McKinney in the Garden State for one more season. And for good reason.

Through the first four seasons of his career, McKinney has logged 279 total tackles with 1.5 sacks, nine interceptions, with one returned for a touchdown, while breaking up 27 passes in 49 games.

“It doesn’t matter what system I’m in: I’m a player. I can play anywhere,” McKinney told the New York Daily News, following the 2023 season. “I’ve played in the box. I can cover your best tight end. I’ve covered receivers. I can play the deep half. All at a high level.”

Underscoring McKinney’s point, Pro Football Focus points out that in 2023, the Giants’ safety held quarterbacks to a paltry 53 passer rating, when targeting him, as opposing wide receivers averaged just 8.7 yards per reception.

If McKinney winds up avoiding the franchise tag, and hits free agency, the Packers would present the opportunity for the 27-year-old to join a roster capable of making a Super Bowl push as early as 2024.

McKinney’s versatility combined past experience playing at a high level in systems predicated on blitzing and generating consistent pressure on the quarterback could make him a building block-type player in Hafley’s scheme.

Can the Packers Afford to Sign Xaiver McKinney?

Gutekunst and the Packers have some serious work to do if Green Bay is going to shop for free agents at the top of the market.

Less than one month away from the new league year opening, Green Bay is currently $445,255 over the salary cap. However, the Packers still have the flexibility to sign key veteran players to extensions, restructure some high-priced contracts, and even move on from potential cap casualties.

Meanwhile, Spotrac projects McKinney to become one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL this offseason, with a five-year contract worth $52.4 million, averaging $10.4 million annually, making him the eighth-highest-paid player at his position.

If the Packers find their way into creating spending flexibility this offseason, McKinney could be a top target to watch in free agency.

Read More