With Wayne Gallman potentially leaving East Rutherford, the New York Giants will need to acquire a backup for Saquon Barkley.
Wayne Gallman proved this past season that he certainly has a place in the NFL. Amid the injury-related absence of Saquon Barkley (who suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 2), Gallman stepped up and proved to be a significant offensive factor down the stretch, rushing for 94 yards against Cincinnati and then 135 yards in the big Week 13 win over Seattle.
But given his production, Barkley returning in 2021, and the New York Giants‘ eventual contract-related decision involving Saquon, it doesn’t seem like Gallman will remain in East Rutherford. The former fourth-round pick of 2017 will likely want to earn a decent chunk of change while competing for a starting job, and that won’t be the case with a healthy Barkley next season.
So with the Giants’ top backup running back (when Barkley is active) probably finding himself elsewhere in 2021, who could the organization acquire in free agency to man the running game whenever Saquon requires rest?
Leonard Fournette (Tampa Bay)
Former first-round pick Leonard Fournette would be a decent option given his age (26) and projected price. He’s currently playing for the Buccaneers on a one-year, $2 million contract and wouldn’t be much more expensive considering his low and inconsistent level of production (3.8 yards per attempt and just one game with at least 100 rushing yards this season).
He wouldn’t have too noteworthy of a responsibility within the offense either given Barkley’s versatility and ability to succeed in a number of different scenarios. Regardless, the Giants could utilize him down near the goal line.
With a knack for the end zone, Fournette rushed for six touchdowns in 2020 and possesses a large 6-foot, 228-pound frame to cross the plane. This would be beneficial for a New York offense that was 31st in the NFL with 17.5 points per game this season.
James White (New England)
Familiarity proves to be a crucial aspect in free agency, and James White certainly possesses that with Giants head coach Joe Judge. Both White and Judge worked together in New England from 2014-19 when the latter was the Patriots special teams assistant-turned-coordinator.
White wouldn’t be an expensive option for the Giants; his most recent deal with New England was $12 million over three years. It’s not like he would compete for a starting job either — White has started just 13 games in his 92-game career.
While not as talented as Barkley, White is still versatile. He could serve as a productive pass-catching back and has for years in New England, averaging four receptions and 34.6 yards per game with a 74.2% catch rate for his career.
Jerick McKinnon (San Francisco)
Like White, Jerick McKinnon is another non-expensive option that would mainly be a passing-game target out of the backfield given his low production when it comes to running the football (just 3.9 yards per carry and 19.9 yards per game in 2020).
Since Barkley is additionally a beneficial target through the air, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett could utilize two-running back sets on passing downs to overwhelm opposing defenses.
One concern with McKinnon, however, is his health history. He missed the entirety of the 2018 and 2019 seasons due to knee injuries. Nonetheless, the prior health-related setbacks could further render his low price tag.
Carlos Hyde (Seattle)
Carlos Hyde is up there in age (he’ll be 31 years old in September), but the Giants wouldn’t need him for much other than short-yardage and goal-line situations, along with the occasional downs when Barkley requires a breather. His 6-foot, 229-pound frame would additionally assist in him fulfilling the job description.
Hyde has rushed for 36 touchdowns in his 90-game career and notched four rushing scores for the Seahawks in 2020.
The seven-year pro also averaged just 35.6 rushing yards per game this past season, so like the other free-agent options on this list, Hyde would probably be a cheap signing.
Marlon Mack (Indianapolis)
Marlon Mack would be one of the more unlikely options, but the idea of signing him is not entirely unrealistic nor would be a detrimental move.
Mack rushed for 1,091 yards for the Colts in 2019 and notched nine and eight rushing scores respectively in 2018 and 2019, possessing a true knack for the end zone.
The young back could be a great complement to Barkley and wouldn’t leave the Giants hung out to dry if Saquon needed rest. He may not be expensive either given the fact he played in just one game this past season due to injury — the Giants could provide him with a one-year prove-it deal for the 2021 campaign.