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Giants 2021 roster profile: RB Devontae Booker

The Giants moved quickly in free agency to sign Booker as Saquon Barkley’s backup. Why?

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

When free agency began the New York Giants raised some eyebrows by quickly signing backup running back Devontae Booker to a two-year, $5.5 million contract. What does Booker bring to the table that made the Giants so eager to sign him as the primary backup for Saquon Barkley?

Let’s try to answer that question as we continue profiling the 90 players the Giants will bring to training camp this summer.

The basics

Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 219
Age: 29 this season
Experience: 5
Position: RB
Contract: Year 1 of two-year, $5.5 million deal | Guaranteed: $2 million | 2021 cap hit: $2.5 million

Career to date

After being drafted in the fourth round by the Denver Broncos in 2016, Booker has pretty much always been in the role for which the Giants have signed him — a secondary back.

Booker’s best year was his rookie season when he gained a team-leading 612 yards on 174 carries, taking over as the lead back in the middle of the season when C.J. Anderson went on IR. Since that time, the most carries has received were the 93 he got last season with the Las Vegas Raiders. He gained 423 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per carry in his only season with the Raiders.

For his career, booker has 382 carries for 1,526 yards (4.0 yards per attempt). He has caught 122 passes for 956 yards (7.8 yards per reception).

2021 outlook

Booker is a Giant to be the backup to Saquon Barkley, and an experienced, versatile insurance policy in the event that Barkley’s knee is not sound or he suffers another injury.

GM Dave Gettleman explained the quick signing of Booker this way:

“You can never have too many good players at any position, I don’t care what anybody says. One of the things that made Devontae so attractive was the fact that we felt he was a legitimate three-down running back.”

Wayne Gallman, of course, had an excellent season (147 carries, 682 yards, 4.6 yards per carry, 6 touchdowns) filling in for Barkley last season. He left in free agency, but found only a one-year, $990,000 deal with the San Francisco 49ers rather than a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal.

Booker’s history does show usefulness both rushing and receiving, as the numbers above indicate. It also shows something important to Joe Judge when it comes to reserve players — special teams usefulness. Gallman did not play a single special teams snap in 2020, and only 17 in 2019. Booker has played 531 career special teams snaps.

How big a role will Booker play? Over a 17-game season, probably a fairly significant one. If Booker plays as well as he did last season for Las Vegas, those who wish Gallman was still a Giant will likely be forgiving. If Gallman outperforms him, especially on a low-cost, one-year deal the move for Booker will justifiably draw criticism.