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Packers Secure Defensive Gem: Xavier McKinney Signs Four-Year, $68 Million Deal

In a surprising turn of events, the Green Bay Packers have made a bold move in the 2024 NFL free agency, securing the services of star safety Xavier McKinney. The former New York Giants player agreed to a lucrative four-year, $68 million contract, making him the third highest-paid safety in the league in terms of both average annual value and total value, according to sources.

McKinney, 24, emerged as a key player for the Giants since being drafted in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. His impact on the defensive side of the ball was undeniable, with standout performances throughout his four seasons in New York. In 2023 alone, McKinney intercepted three passes, tallied an impressive 116 total tackles, and showcased his versatility by playing in various positions, including 464 snaps at free safety, 388 in the box, and 167 in a slot cornerback alignment.

The move comes as the Packers faced the departure of their top safety from the previous season, Darnell Savage Jr., who reportedly agreed to terms with the Jacksonville Jaguars. With McKinney’s arrival, Green Bay not only addresses a critical need at safety but also gains a player with Pro Football Focus grading him as the NFL’s best safety in coverage for the 2023 season, boasting a remarkable 91.2 coverage grade.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst expressed the team’s desire for versatile safeties who can play multiple positions, a criterion McKinney fulfills. Gutekunst emphasized the importance of flexibility in the defensive backfield, citing the frequent injuries in the league and the need for players who can seamlessly adapt to various roles.

The signing of McKinney not only fortifies the Packers’ defense but also strategically removes a significant need from their draft board. With ample draft capital, the team was speculated to potentially target a safety early in the draft. McKinney’s arrival, however, allows the Packers to allocate their resources differently, potentially targeting other positions of need.

Proving his durability and impact, McKinney played every defensive snap in the 2023 season, a feat shared with only one other player in the NFL. His ability to force tight window throws and his stellar coverage skills position McKinney as a transformative addition to Green Bay’s defense, addressing concerns raised by the team’s previous defensive coordinator Joe Berry.

This unexpected move follows another notable acquisition by the Packers in the same free agency period, securing former Raiders running back Josh Jacobs to a four-year, $48 million deal. The Packers, known for their cautious approach in free agency, have taken an uncharacteristic leap by making two splash signings in McKinney and Jacobs.

As McKinney joins the Packers’ promising young defense under the guidance of first-year coordinator Jeff Hafley, expectations rise for the team’s ability to contend for the NFC North title and beyond in the upcoming 2024 season. The addition of McKinney, alongside two-time All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander, solidifies Green Bay’s secondary and marks a significant step toward addressing the defensive improvements sought by Gutekunst after the 2023 season.