NFL Free Agency: Highlighting the top moves on defense

Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins was the gem of the class, but others could really help their new squads.

Former Seattle linebacker Jordyn Brooks signed with the Miami Dolphins as a free agent last week.
Former Seattle linebacker Jordyn Brooks signed with the Miami Dolphins as a free agent last week. / Andy Lyons/GettyImages
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Safeties

The top value free safety is Darnell Savage who signed a three-year, $21.75 million contract with Jacksonville. Savage will leave Green Bay for the warmer Florida weather and the deep payments of the Jacksonville ownership. He also is guaranteed $12.5 million under the terms of the contract.

The second highest paid free safety was Brandon Jones, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, who signed with the Denver Broncos. He signed a three-year, $20 million accord and with an $11 million guarantee. Jones has been injured, on and off, the last few seasons and did not see a lot of game action until last season and that was only seven games. The Broncos must have liked what they saw on tape and offered him a deal much higher than his pay grade.

Strong safety is apparently where the money is Xavier McKinney was given a whopping $67 million over four years, by the Green Bay Packers, with $23 million guaranteed. He will have an annual average value of $16.75 million per season.

The Packers pulled off one of the most impactful signings of free agency.

Pro Football Focus praised the Packers, saying the team “swung for the fences,” and a former NFL executive told Heavy Sports he, too, was impressed.

McKinney made 116 tackles last season and 78 were unassisted. It shows his tenacity and his stregnth to bring the ball carrier down. He also had three interceptions in what was a banner year for McKinney.

The Chicago Bears made Kevin Byard the second highest paid strong safety of the 2024 free agency class, but he will make nowhere near the money that McKinney will make. Byard sighed a two-year $15 million contract with $7.5 million guaranteed.