Giants Add Patriots Safety After Xavier McKinney Departure: Report

Xavier McKinney

Getty The New York Giants moved to replace Xavier McKinney by agreeing a deal with a safety for the New England Patriots.

Xavier McKinney’s gone and Adoree’ Jackson could follow him, so the New York Giants wisely agreed a deal with Jalen Mills in 2024 NFL free agency. The veteran played safety and cornerback for the New England Patriots and helped the Philadelphia Eagles win the 2018 Super Bowl.

That history earned Mills a one-year deal with the Giants on Tuesday, March 12, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. While his role isn’t immediately clear, Mills’ versatility and experience will be assets in a secondary set for a significant makeover after McKinney agreed a four-year deal with the Green Bay Packers on Monday.

Playing for the Pats the last three seasons will make Mills a good fit for new Giants’ defensive coordinator Shane Bowen. He’s expected to run a Patriots-style, opponent-specific system.

Mills will make that kind of scheme work and still has value as a starter. He’ll also give the Giants options at deep safety, in the slot and outside cornerback.

Role for Jalen Mills Unclear

There isn’t a consensus on what role Mills might play for the Giants. At least not among team reporters.

Mills is viewed as a “jack of all trades type in the secondary” by Dan Duggan of The Athletic. Duggan doesn’t think signing Mills “fills any of the big holes in the Giants’ secondary.”

That description sounds like Mills is ticketed for a utility role. It makes sense, but the 29-year-old’s pedigree lends itself well to a bigger workload.

Mills made 34 starts in New England in a complex system called by now former head coach Bill Belichick. The latter trusted Mills and other veterans to adapt themselves to taking away the strengths of different schemes and offenses.

Belichick also believed in a veteran’s ability to switch positions and handle multiple responsibilities. Mills did so, based on how many different spots he played in the Patriots’ secondary, per Bobby Skinner of Talkin’ Giants: “Played 35% Deep safety, 30% Box, 30% Nickel & 5% outside CB in 2023.”

This kind of range means Mills can help the Giants replace McKinney.

Xavier McKinney Will Be Tough to Replace

McKinney did a lot in the Giants’s secondary. He was adept on the blitz and could handle the physical aspects of playing closer to the line of scrimmage. The 24-year-old was also enough of an athlete to make plays in coverage on the back end.

Replacing him will be a tough task, but Mills at least gives Bowen and the Giants options. One would be to let Mills play deep and move Jason Pinnock down into the box.

Pinnock was one of the few success stories of last season. The former fifth-round draft pick of the New York Jets became a starter and snatched a pair of interceptions, including this 102-yard pick-six against the Miami Dolphins in Week 5.

Pinnock’s ball-hawk traits probably make him an ideal centerfielder, but the 6-foot, 200-pounder has the size to make a more attacking role his own.

The Giants could also leave Pinnock at free safety and wait to replace McKinney in the 2024 NFL draft. That strategy would leave Mills as an ideal fit to play slot corner, a role Jackson struggled in last season, one reason the 28-year-old isn’t expected to return to MetLife Stadium.

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