Wayne Gallman’s inevitable exit from East Rutherford has officially come. Two days after hosting the New York Giants‘ reigning leading rusher on a free agency visit, the San Francisco 49ers announced on Wednesday that they have inked Gallman to a one-year deal.
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Gallman Showed Out in 2020
Gallman greatly exceeded expectations this past season. The former fourth-round pick led the Giants in rushing in the wake of Saquon Barkley’s torn ACL suffered in Week 2. He went on to post career-highs in every major rushing statistical category, rushing for 682 yards and six touchdowns on 147 attempts over 15 games (10 starts).
With that said, the 26-year-old’s previous three seasons in the league were far less productive. From 2017-2019, Gallman appeared in 38 games, rushing the ball 191 times for 762 yards and three touchdowns. Yes, part of the reason for the timid production was due to limited usage. However, another reason was his lapses holding onto the football. Gallman fumbled the ball six times over his first three years in the league, ultimately landing in the old regime’s doghouse. Thankfully, it appears as though Gallman has gotten a grip on his fumbling issues. Despite a seismic bump in touches, he only put the football on the ground once in 2020.
Potential concerns about being a one-hit-wonder notwithstanding, Gallman will add a boost to a 49ers backfield who saw Tevin Coleman leave for the Jets in free agency and is unlikely to retain Jerrick McKinnon. The Niners’ current roster bolsters four other running backs; Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, JaMycal Hasty and Austin Walter.
The Writing Was on the Wall
Gallman’s breakout campaign was expected to garner the Clemson product some serious interest on the open market this spring and ultimately price him out of Big Blue’s budget. However, his visit to San Francisco was the first reported bite Gallman received from an NFL team since free agency opened more than a month ago.
While now obviously off the table, perceived limited interest in Gallman’s services did lead to whispers in recent weeks of a potential reunion between him and the Giants.
“I think the door is open for him (Gallman) should the Giants not draft a running back later this month,” USA Today’s John Fennelly claimed.
In reality, Gallman’s time in New York had run its course. The writing had been on the wall ever since the team opted to hand Devontae Booker a two-year, $5.5 million contract early in free agency. The ex-Raiders running back is expected to serve as the primary backup to Barkley in 2021. Furthermore, Booker brings a far more well-rounded game to the table and the type of skill set the team is likely looking for from their second-string running back.
With Barkley set to man the majority of touches in the run game once again, Gallman’s attributes as a pure runner become far less crucial and are ultimately outweighed by what he can bring to the table as a pass-blocker, receiver and special teams contributor — all facets which Booker has excelled at throughout his career.
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