NFC West Notes: Cards, Pugh, Rams, Donald

Justin Pugh ultimately signed a five-year, $45MM deal with the Cardinals this offseason, but the phone wasn’t exactly ringing off the hook when Pugh hit the open market on the first day of free agency, as Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com writes. “I thought I would get all these calls,” said Pugh. “Saw [Andrew] Norwell get signed [to a 5-year, $66.5MM with the Jaguars] and thinking I’m breaking the bank. And, you know, coming off an injury, coming off the season that we had, you get humbled a little bit. That is kind of what happened. You win three games in a season, not many things are going to go well for you.”

While Pugh landed a $9MM annual average, he didn’t reset the positional market as did Norwell. Pugh, who has the ability to play tackle but will start at right guard for the Cardinals, ranks seventh at his position in terms of yearly value, and 14th in full guarantees. For what it’s worth, Pugh’s former employer — the Giants — never contacted the former first-round pick once he reached free agency.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • While Aaron Donald has certainly made a case to earn a hefty extension, the Rams have the option of exerting leverage over the All-World defensive tackle, per Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News. While Donald likely wants to allow Raiders edge rusher Khalil Mack to reset the market for defensive players, Mack — thanks to his higher draft slot — will earn nearly double Donald’s salary in 2018. Donald, of course, has made a strong argument for his next contract by playing as the league’s best defender for some time. The 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, Donald has earned Pro Bowl nods in each of his four pro campaigns, and was named a first-team All-Pro from 2015-17. Donald predictably skipped Los Angeles’ organized team activities, but the Rams are reportedly “optimistic” they’ll get a new deal in place before the regular season kicks off.
  • Tight end Jermaine Gresham suffered a torn Achilles in Week 17 of the 2017 regular season, but the Cardinals are “hopeful” he’ll be ready to play in time for Week 1, tweets Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. If Gresham isn’t available, Arizona would turn to last year’s breakout in Ricky Seals-Jones, while fellow tight ends Gabe Holmes, Bryce Williams, and Beau Sandland could also be in line for more looks. Gresham, who turns 30 next week, posted 33 receptions for 322 yards and two scores last season. In other Gresham news, he’s recently become something of a viral sensation after helping a fellow airline passenger, as Katherine Fitzgerald of the Arizona Republic details.
  • In case you missed it, Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark has stayed away from team activities, but there’s been no discussion of a contract extension for the fourth-year pro.
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