Giants could slap transition tag on star safety headed to free agency

New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney (29) holds the ball as he celebrates with New York Giants linebacker Azeez Ojulari (51) and New York Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence II (97) after he intercepted a Philadelphia Eagles pass

The New York Giants are at a crossroads with star safety Xavier McKinney, whose potential departure this offseason could leave a significant void in their defense. As one of the few pivotal players on the roster, McKinney’s role extends beyond the field; he is a leader and a standout performer, making the decision surrounding his contract critical for the team’s strategy moving forward.

McKinney’s Impact and Contract Considerations

McKinney, at just 25 years old, has proven to be an indispensable asset to the Giants, playing every defensive snap last season alongside linebacker Bobby Okereke and achieving his best professional performance to date. He amassed 94 tackles, managed 288 yards in coverage, and contributed three interceptions and three pass breakups. Recognized as one of the top tackling safeties in the league, McKinney’s proficiency has earned him a top-five grade at his position from PFF.

Securing McKinney’s talents for the future would likely necessitate a significant financial commitment, potentially exceeding $16 million annually.

The Giants, however, seem to be exploring alternatives to the franchise tag, which could alienate McKinney. Paul Schwartz of the New York Post suggests the possibility of utilizing the transition tag, which would cost the Giants $13.9 million—a more palatable figure compared to the franchise tag. This approach allows McKinney to seek offers from other teams, with the Giants retaining the right to match any offer sheet.

READ MORE: Giants could cut two veteran playmakers to create cap space for free agency

Giants’ Strategic Financial Moves

The use of the transition tag presents a strategic way for the Giants to assess McKinney’s market value while keeping their options open. However, this strategy may complicate negotiations, potentially straining relations with McKinney. A direct extension might be a more straightforward solution to keep a key leader within the team, especially as the Giants face the prospect of Saquon Barkley’s departure in free agency.

With significant financial decisions looming, the Giants could look to create additional cap space by reworking the contracts of key players like Andrew Thomas and Dexter Lawrence. Additionally, the team’s future quarterback situation, particularly regarding Daniel Jones’s contract, will play a crucial role in their off-season planning. Whether the Giants can secure a quarterback in the upcoming draft may influence their approach to Jones’s deal in 2025.

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