Giants could pivot to 2X Pro Bowl safety as Xavier McKinney alternative

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Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

General manager Joe Schoen has been proactive in protecting the Giants‘ future salary health, which is why he’s taken a cautious approach to extending Saquon Barkley and Xavier McKinney. Both will hit the open market on Monday, and there’s expected to be significant interest in both star players.

The Giants have about $38.3 million in available salary space, but they can open up an additional $25 million by restructuring the contracts of Dexter Lawrence and Andrew Thomas.

Of course, that is the last resort option if the Giants need to allocate any additional salary in free agency. They have veteran free agent cornerback Darious Williams visiting on Sunday afternoon and will likely be active early in free agency to reinforce the roster.

Investing in the offensive line will be paramount, but they may pivot to another safety who has earned two Pro Bowl nods in his career as a potential replacement for McKinney if he ends up signing elsewhere.

Schoen played the safety market perfectly, refusing to spend big money on McKinney and waiting until teams cut a flurry of quality options to consider cheaper alternatives. One McKinney pivot could be Justin Simmons, who the Denver Broncos released several days ago.

Simmons has a projected average annual salary of $11.1 million, according to Spotrac. That would be significantly less than McKinney and a shorter-term deal as well, allowing the Giants to address the position through the draft and keep costs down long-term.

READ MORE: The Giants know how much it will cost to retain Saquon Barkley

What Would Simmons Bring to the Giants?

Simmons played 985 snaps with Denver last season, posting 59 tackles and allowing 324 yards in coverage, three interceptions, and five pass breakups.

Historically, he’s been one of the best safeties in football for quite a long time and has put a minimum of 808 snaps since 2018.

In terms of alignment, Simmons played 594 snaps at free safety last season, including 144 at slot corner and 230 in the box. These numbers are similar to McKinnies’ versatility, so the Giants wouldn’t hesitate to utilize Simmons in various ways.

Clearly, the Giants don’t value the safety and running back positions highly enough to invest significant capital. McKinney is looking for top dollar, and considering he shares an agent with Derwin James, who is being paid $19 million per season, it is fair to assume he doesn’t want to settle for anything less than his market value.

The Giants have holes to fill with more pressing needs than safety, notably in the trenches. If sacrificing McKinney for an offensive lineman is what they need to do, the Giants are keen on solving that unit once and for all. However, they might be able to save $7 million by signing Simmons and going after a right tackle like Jermaine Eluemunor, who will likely come out around that price tag on a yearly basis.

Nonetheless, the Giants have a solid amount of cap space, and it will be interesting to see how they diversify their investments. Reinforcing the offense is a priority, especially if they plan to stick with Daniel Jones in 2024.

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