49ers news: Wayne Gallman, Arden Key signings are fantastic moves

Wayne Gallman #22 of the New York Giants (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Wayne Gallman #22 of the New York Giants (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The 49ers bolstered their depth by adding running back Wayne Gallman and defensive end Arden Key, both low-risk and possibly high-reward moves.

After hosting both players for a visit, the San Francisco 49ers are bolstering their offseason depth by inking former New York Giants running back Wayne Gallman and former Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Arden Key.

Previous news of their respective workouts happened earlier this week.

Key is being brought aboard on a one-year deal, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:

ESPN’s Field Yates, who initially reported the Gallman transaction, didn’t specify the length of his contract:

Gallman, specifically, has far bigger an upside than Key. Specifically when looking at how well the former played in relief of star Giants running back Saquon Barkley’s near season-long ACL tear. In total, Gallman rushed for 682 yards and six touchdowns over 15 games with the G-Men in 2020, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, while also adding 114 yards and 21 receptions through the air.

Over his first four years in the league, all with the Giants, the 26-year-old Gallman has 1,444 rush yards with a career average of 4.3 yards per attempt.

Key, meanwhile, flamed out with the Raiders after being their third-round addition from the 2018 NFL Draft. The prolific pass-rushing prospect out of LSU registered just three sacks in 37 total games played over three seasons, which ultimately prompted Las Vegas to part ways with him earlier this offseason.

And that one penalty against the Miami Dolphins late last year certainly did Key no favors either.

Of the two, Gallman figures to have an easier inside track to make San Francisco’s 53-man roster out of training camp.

But still, adding both players was a wise move from the 49ers’ vantage point.

49ers are banking on high upsides from Wayne Gallman, Arden Key

Both Gallman and Key are still at phases in their respective careers where they can have a lot to offer.

In Gallman’s case, he’s easily an outside-zone specialist who can use his one-cut abilities to expose greater holes on the periphery. The former fourth-round draft pick out of Clemson cut down on some fumbling issues he had earlier in his pro career, and he’ll likely supplement the depth chart behind incumbent runners like Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr. and JaMycal Hasty, none of whom are under contract beyond 2021.

Adding Gallman decreases pressure on the Niners to select a running back in this year’s NFL Draft. And while they may do so anyway, a rookie wouldn’t have to automatically be thrust into the fray if one of the tailbacks higher up on the depth chart misses any extended time this season because of injury.

Key, meanwhile, is a bit different of a story.

At one point leading up to the 2018 draft, some thought Key could be a top-10 pick, particularly after his 11-sack sophomore campaign in 2016. Yet Key bottomed out a bit his junior year with only four sacks, which included taking a leave of absence with the team, yet still elected to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft anyway.

Underachievement along with injuries create some question marks. But, at least according to his Instagram post shortly after being let go by the Raiders, it at least appears as if Key is motivated:

This is the epitome of a low-risk, high-reward move by San Francisco.

Key doesn’t have to assume a major role with the 49ers, should he make the 53-man roster. The Niners already have one elite pass-rusher in EDGE Nick Bosa, and the hope is fellow EDGE Samson Ebukam can help pick up the slack if fellow pass-rusher Dee Ford is unable to return anytime soon because of a back injury.

And with fellow defensive linemen Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw perform well enough after playing alongside together for the first time last year, Key’s role would solely have to be supplementary in nature.

It’s never a bad idea to have too many pass-rushers.

That’s one difference Key is likely to experience in San Francisco and something from which he didn’t benefit in Las Vegas. The Raiders defensive line is easily thinner than that of the 49ers, which should at the very least take pressure off Key from having to deliver Round 1-caliber talent.

At that point, and at least to guard against injury attrition up front, Key could find his own way to resurrect his career.

If not, it’s highly unlikely the Niners gave Key an overly expensive deal. Those kinds of low-risk, high-reward options are what can help a playoff-contending team get over the top.

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