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Green Bay Packers sign Xavier McKinney in NFL free agency, potential impact

Green Bay Packers, Xavier McKinney
Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Green Bay Packers entered the NFL offseason determined to overhaul their defense after consecutive years of disappointment on that side of the ball. Following an overhaul to the defensive side of the Packers coaching staff, Green Bay could now be poised to make a big move in NFL free agency.

Of the Packers team needs in 2024, none is more glaring than the safety position. It’s a spot that has haunted this unit for years and for a draft-and-develop team, the lack of high-end talent at that position in the 2024 NFL Draft class meant free agency would likely be the best option to fix the problem.

  • Green Bay Packers defensive stats 2023: 5.4 yards per play allowed (21st in NFL), 94.7 QB rating allowed (25th in NFL), 7.3 yards per pass attempt allowed (20th in NFL), 128.3 rush ypg allowed (28th)

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Fortunately for Green Bay and other teams in need at that spot, NFL free agency is loaded with proven safeties. That not includes Green Bay signing New York Giants star safety Xavier McKinney to a four-year, $68 million contract.

Here’s everything you need to know about McKinney, how he will fit with the Packers’ defense and why Green Bay might have hit a home run with the signing.

How Xavier McKinney can impact the Packers’ defense

Green Bay Packers, Xavier McKinney
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When Packers defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley took over the position this offseason, he emphasized the importance of the safety position. Long an area of weakness on the Packers’ defense since a career-ending injury to Nick Collins, the club wanted to prioritize fixing it this offseason.

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“I want a guy who can erase things—we’ve got to eliminate explosive plays when we play this defense. If a run hits up the middle, this guy has got to come out of the middle of the field with his hair on fire and has got to be able to get a guy down.”

Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley on what he wants in a safety

McKinney, who was the only defensive back in the NFL to play 100 percent of his team’s snaps last season, fits that definition perfectly. While he’s never made the Pro Bowl in his career, he’s widely regarded as one of the best safeties in the NFL.

  • Xavier McKinney stats (2023): 78 solo tackles, 11 pass deflections, 69.8 QB rating allowed when targeted, 6.5 percent missed tackle rate

In 2023, McKinney received the fourth-highest Pro Football Focus grade (87.8) among qualified safeties. Importantly for a Packers’ defense that had 101 missed tackles during the regular season, McKinley had the eighth-lowest rate of missed tackles (7.1 percent) at his position. He also ranked 16th in defensive stops (13) and generated a forced fumble as a run defender.

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McKinley is also reliable in pass coverage. According to Pro Football Reference, he allowed just 7 yards per target with a 69.4 average QB rating on 65 targets in his direction last season. McKinney’s 61.1 percent reception rate allowed in coverage also ranked 11th among safeties.

Packers’ defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley, hired by Hafley this offseason, coached up McKinney with the Alabama Crimson Tie (2016-’17). McKinney also shares an agent with Packers’ quarterback Jordan Love.

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