Giants’ star safety gearing up for testy free agent market

new york giants, xavier mckinney
New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney (29) holds up at the ball at the end of the game of a regular season NFL football matchup Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The New York Giants defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 23-17. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union] Jki 102322 Giants Jags Cp 19 Syndication Florida Times Union

The New York Giants are currently concentrating on Saquon Barkley and his contract negotiations. However, safety Xavier McKinney, also facing a crucial season, will be closely watching these developments.

McKinney: A Key Defensive Figure Entering the Final Season

McKinney, a former 2nd-round pick, is stepping into the last season of his rookie contract. Known for his defensive prowess as a co-captain on the Giants’ team, McKinney has demonstrated the potential to be a top safety in the NFL. His performance could make him one of the most sought-after players in the open market next off-season.

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The Potential Impact of Barkley’s Extension

The outcome of Barkley’s contract extension discussions, which should be concluded by Monday’s deadline, will significantly influence McKinney’s future. If Barkley and the Giants agree on an extension, it could free up the franchise tag for McKinney in 2024. If an agreement isn’t reached, the Giants will face a challenging decision about who to tag, indirectly placing McKinney’s future in Barkley’s hands.

Weighing the Possible Outcomes

If Barkley plays under the franchise tag in 2023, it might leave the door open for a possible tag in 2024. Barkley’s 2023 performance could also impact the Giants’ decision. A lackluster season or an injury could increase the likelihood of the Giants choosing McKinney over Barkley for the 2024 franchise tag.

Assessing McKinney’s Performance Thus Far

McKinney’s career trajectory to date has been somewhat inconsistent. During his rookie season in 2020, he missed 10 games due to a foot fracture. The following season, he was absent for seven games after breaking multiple fingers in an ATV accident. Despite these setbacks, during his one injury-free season, McKinney performed exceptionally well, tying for the NFL lead for interceptions among safeties with five and completing 93 tackles. Consequently, assessing McKinney’s overall performance has been a complex task.

McKinney’s Need to Prove his Worth

Joe Schoen, the Giants’ general manager, hasn’t demonstrated an urgent need to retain safeties, having already released Logan Ryan and allowed Julian Love to leave in free agency. For McKinney, the upcoming season is critical. He will need to convince the Giants of his potential as a long-term defensive asset to secure a lucrative deal.