The Giants’ Xavier McKinney checks the leadership box

PALM BEACH, Fla. – After the Giants released the safety of Logan Ryan — a team captain under Joe Judge’s coaching regime — it was fascinating to hear the first player, head coach Brian Daboll, mention when he asked about the need new team leader was asked:

Xavier McKinney.

“I think there’s young guys like ‘X’, Daniel and Saquon, and then there’s some older guys that I got to meet while they’re in rehab in the building, guys like Shep, Martinez,” Daboll said. “It takes everyone to build a culture. And you like designing young people, developing them and watching them grow.”

These were mainly the predictable players that Daboll had to list. Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Blake Martinez. However, McKinney was a wild card. Perhaps the new front office and coaching groups believed that McKinney, a talented safety entering his third NFL season, is poised to take on a greater leadership role and that Ryan’s presence in the locker room and on the field stalled that development could.

Giants free safety Xavier McKinney (29) cuts a pass intended for Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) in the first half at MetLife Stadium.
Giants free safety Xavier McKinney
Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports

Splitting from Ryan had nothing to do with making room for salary caps — the savings totaled a modest $775,000. Other factors, like Ryan at age 31 perhaps losing a step or not matching defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s wishes, could all be part of the reasoning. Ryan reunited with Tom Brady and signed with the Buccaneers.

“There are decisions that are made every offseason that are tough decisions,” Daboll said. “I’ve known Logan for a while and at the end of the day we just thought it was the right thing for us and I wish Logan the best of luck in Tampa.” He’s a good player.

“You see, when you take on a new program, there are decisions to be made, and you make those decisions, you’re doing what you think is right for your team.”

Daboll, as well as general manager Joe Schoen, said he called Barkley when reports from the Scouting Combine indicated the Giants were trying to find a trading partner for the returning marquee.

Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants runs with the ball after catching against the Miami Dolphins in the third quarter at Hard Rock Stadium on December 05, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Saquon Barkley
Getty Images

“When things come out, I try to stay on top of things,” Daboll said. “I have children who are 22 and 21 years old. They are human first. It’s important to also show a little empathy for guys in the situations they find themselves in. I know it’s a tough business, but I think it’s also a people business.”

The Giants brought back QB Davis Webb this offseason, their third-round pick in 2017. It was a move initiated by Daboll, who had worked with Webb for the past three years when Webb was on the Bills’ practice team . The Bills did offer Webb a job as quarterbacks coach, but Webb, 27, wanted to extend his playing career for as long as possible.

“He’s the best teammate I’ve ever seen,” said Daboll. “And I hate to use that word, but he’s incredible with his teammates in terms of off-field learning. He would meet up with Josh [Allen] every Friday to go through and organize our call log. He was a great sounding board and a really good competitor.” The Giants’ Xavier McKinney checks the leadership box


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