Dave Gettleman said the Giants pursued veteran Devontae Booker aggressively early in free agency because “we felt he was a legitimate three-down running back.”
Booker’s two-year, $5.5 million deal, worth up to $6 million with incentives, was an unexpectedly pricey buy in mid-March for a backup running back.
But with Saquon Barkley rehabbing a torn ACL and partially torn meniscus in his right knee, plus the looming question of a contract extension, the Giants needed insurance.
Gettleman was asked Tuesday about whether Booker’s signing was a hedge against Barkley’s availability. The GM didn’t discuss Barkley directly, but his description of Booker was a clear indication that the Giants believe Booker can carry the offensive load.
“You can never have too many good players at any position,” Gettleman said. “One of the things that made Devontae so attractive was that we felt he was a legitimate three-down running back. We feel he can obviously be a good part of our solution at running back.”
Of course in a perfect world Barkley will be the Giants’ healthy and available starting running back this fall. And Gettleman alluded to that when he discussed signing Kyle Rudolph as a “professional tight end” who helps Daniel Jones but also “helps our running game, too.”
“It helps Saquon,” Gettleman said of Barkley, his former No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Giants co-owner John Mara made waves on March 31 when he said the Giants are “not in any hurry” to extend Barkley, who is now eligible for his second NFL contract. On the horizon, Jones will be eligible to negotiate his second contract following the 2021 season.
Assistant GM Kevin Abrams said “those (contract discussions) will be collective decisions.”
“Ownership will be involved. Dave will lead the charge. And when the time is right, we’ll attack those, too,” Abrams said.
The Giants already back-loaded tens of millions of cap dollars into the 2022 season to sign this year’s top free agents, though, so that begs the question of how prepared or able they will be to pay Barkley and Jones what they want and/or deserve.
Abrams assured the Giants shelled out this spring’s big money with those deals in mind.
“Everything we do has an immediate and a one-two-three horizon,” Abrams said. “And we’re always mindful of how things impact both today and how it impacts us next year and beyond.”
Gettleman did something unusual by admitting “there’s regret” about losing defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson to the Minnesota Vikings in free agency.
It reinforced the fact that the Giants loved the person and player and somehow let him walk anyway. If they hadn’t been able to afford him, that would have been one thing. But that’s not what happened.
The Giants spent huge in free agency, just not on Tomlinson. And by not trading him in the fall, even though they knew losing him was a possibility, they lost a solid former second-round pick for nothing.
“Dalvin is a wonderful young man, and he was a captain, so obviously there’s regret,” Gettleman said. “But at the end of the day you only have so much money, and you’ve got to make decisions. We’ll miss Dalvin, and I’m thrilled he got what he wanted… Sure it’s hard. But unfortunately because of what happened, you’ve got to make decisions.”
Tomlinson signed a two-year, $21 million deal with Minnesota, with void years on the back end to reduce his cap hits. The Giants do feel they have interior depth, but they let a good player leave — a player they didn’t want to lose.
It was tough to listen to Gettleman’s explanation for why the Giants honored their original deal with Rudolph after recognizing the tight end needed foot surgery:
“We are the Giants,” Gettleman said. “We’re gonna do everything with class.”
Whether the GM intends it this way or not, saying this comes off as high and mighty and arrogant. There are plenty of examples in recent years of the Giants and Gettleman not doing things the classy way. They are just like every other NFL organization: They often try to do things the right way and do. But sometimes they don’t or they fall short.
This isn’t a question about class; it’s about business. It would have been reasonable and practical for the Giants to tie more of Rudolph’s money to incentives after belatedly learning the severity of his injury, if not reduce his total money outright — especially in a spring when the Giants spent so heavily.
Abrams’ succinct answer was a better explanation: “Once (Rudolph) went through all the medical evaluations, we didn’t think that it was necessary.”
Gettleman eventually listed that explanation, too: “We had an agreement, (head athletic trainer) Ronnie (Barnes) signed off on it, (Dr. Scott Rodeo) signed off on it, so we were fine.”
So that’s the answer: the Giants felt confident enough that Rudolph will be healthy after the surgery not to alter the deal. That’s it.