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Xavier McKinney checked all the boxes for Packers as a ‘unique’ free agent opportunity

Top players under the age of 25 so rarely become available in the NFL, so when the New York Giants let ascending safety Xavier McKinney hit the open market in free agency, Brian Gutekunst and the Green Bay Packers pounced.

McKinney, 24, signed a four-year deal worth up to $68 million to go from the Giants to the safety-needy Packers earlier this month.

“I think he’s a unique player to come available,” Gutekunst said Monday from the league meetings. “He’s 24 years old, one of the top safeties in the game, a guy that can be a game-changing type player. He really fits the criteria we’re looking for in a free agent, not only as a player but as a leader back there. Extensively scouted him through college and liked him quite a bit coming out, and he’s done nothing in his time in the NFL to change that. Again, not a lot of these guys come available, so when they do, it’s important for us to go down that road and see if we can acquire them.”

Gutekunst said players with McKinney’s profile are usually only available via trade. Entering free agency, the team’s list of targets dwindled quickly with re-signings and the franchise tag, but the Giants let McKinney test the waters without restriction, opening the door for the Packers to make a big move.

“There were very few guys that fit the criteria he did that come available,” Gutekunst said. “We’re just really excited. His next three years should be the best football he plays in our mind and we’re excited about that.”

At Pro Football Focus, McKinney graded out as the No. 4 overall safety in 2023, trailing only Antoine Winfield Jr., Jessie Bates III and Jevon Holland. He earned the best overall coverage grade and second-best tackling grade while producing 26 stops, three interceptions and allowing zero touchdown passes across over 1,100 total snaps.

McKinney played all over the formation for Wink Martindale, with almost 500 snaps at free safety, a little under 400 in the box and over 150 in the slot.

A second-round pick in 2020, McKinney doesn’t turn 25 years old until August.

He is talented, ascending as a player and entering his football prime. McKinney was also a team captain for the Giants.

In desperate need of a safety to fit Jeff Hafley’s new defense, the Packers aggressively chased a unique opportunity and, as a result, landed one of the top free agents available.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire