Justin Pugh

Cardinals Place Justin Pugh On IR

Justin Pugh continues to have lousy injury luck. The well-paid free agent addition will head to IR because of a knee injury he sustained in Week 10.

The former first-round Giants pick has not played a full season since his 2013 rookie year.

For the Cardinals, it’s more of the same on a front that’s been battered by setbacks in recent seasons. This year, Arizona already lost center A.Q. Shipley for the season before it started and was without Mike Iupati in Week 10.

Pugh signed a five-year, $45MM deal to trek to Arizona. He’s tethered to the Cardinals’ roster for a while. This will be the second straight season in which he’ll spend at least eight games out because of injury. A back problem ended his final Giants campaign after eight games in 2017. Pugh played just 11 games in 2016.

Ten offensive linemen are still on Arizona’s roster, however, and some less experienced players will be called to action. This isn’t new for the Cards, though.

Last season, they saw Iupati and tackles D.J. Humphries and Jared Veldheer go down, damaging their ground attack during a season that featured rampant trouble with quarterback health. This year isn’t going nearly as well on the field, with the Cards at 2-7. The team’s issues unleashing David Johnson may well continue after the Pugh news.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: CBA, London Team, Cardinals, Ravens

There’s been a lot of talk about the league’s current CBA. Many around the league, including the NFLPA, continue to view a lockout as a strong possibility when the current bargaining agreement expires after the 2020 season. Owners are widely seen as having won the last round of negotiations, and players are sure to have stronger demands this time around. At first the league was anxious to get a new deal done and avoid a drawn out process, but the “NFL recently has shown less urgency to get a new labor deal done” according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.

A source told Florio that “the NFL previously had wanted to get a new labor deal in place by the next Super Bowl”, but that’s no longer the case. The change in heart is “fueled by the league’s happiness with the 2018 ratings performance” Florio writes. Florio notes that the ratings increases give the league more leverage in negotiations with networks which makes them “feel less compelled to bend to the union a bit in order to be able to sell labor peace deep into the next decade to the broadcast partners.” It’s an interesting angle that Florio presents, and the whole situation will be one of the biggest stories to monitor over the next year.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The league’s executive vice president of international, Mark Waller, thinks London is ready for an NFL team right now, according to Albert Breer of SI.com. Breer had an interesting conversation with Waller, who thinks the “pieces for a London team are in place.” It was rumored earlier this week that Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan had his sights set on moving the team to London.
  • Cardinals guard Justin Pugh broke his hand in the team’s loss to the Vikings, the lineman told Josh Weinfuss of ESPN (Twitter link). Lineman can often play with a club/cast on their hand, but it would seem likely Pugh misses at least a little time, and may need surgery. It’s a big blow to an Arizona offensive line that is already among the worst in the league.
  • Ravens guard Alex Lewis suffered a scary neck injury that had him down on the field for a while, but he appears to be alright. There was a lot of concern after Lewis was taken to the hospital, but he’s regained feeling in his extremitites and has “been cleared to travel back tonight with team”, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (Twitter link). Lewis will have more tests tomorrow, but overall it’s very positive news after what initially looked like a very serious injury.

 

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.

Contract Details: A. Smith, Pugh, Curry, ASJ

Let’s take a look at the details of a few recently signed NFL contracts:

AFC

  • Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE (Jaguars): Two years, $10MM. $4MM guaranteed. $3.21MM signing bonus. $500K 2019 option bonus. $500K annually available via catch, playoff, and touchdown incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Adrian Clayborn, DE (Patriots): Two years, $10MM. $5.5MM guaranteed. $4MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe).
  • Albert Wilson, WR (Dolphins): Three years, $24MMM. $14.45MM guaranteed. $4.5MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Marcus Gilchrist, S (Raiders): One year, $4MM. $3.85MM guaranteed. $1.85MM signing bonus. $1MM available via playtime, interceptions, and Pro Bowl incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Tramaine Brock, CB (Broncos): One year, $3MM. Fully guaranteed. $1MM signing bonus. $1MM available via playtime incentives (Twitter link via Mike Klis of 9News).
  • Seantrel Henderson, T (Texans): One year, $4MM. $1MM guaranteed. $500K signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).

NFC

  • Alex Smith, QB (Redskins): Four years, $94MM. $55MM guaranteed. $27MM signing bonus (Twitter links via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com and Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com).
  • Justin Pugh, OL (Cardinals): Five years, $45.025MM. $15.75MM guaranteed. $10MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle).
  • Vinny Curry, DE (Buccaneers): Three years, $23MM. $6.5MM guaranteed (Twitter link via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times).
  • Zach Brown, LB (Redskins): Three years, $21MM. $10MM guaranteed. $4.5MM signing bonus. $1MM annually available in Pro Bowl, All-Pro incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Ed Dickson, TE (Seahawks): Three years, $10.7MM. $3.6MM guaranteed. $2.6MM signing bonus. $1.1MM annually available via catch, yards, and Pro Bowl incentive (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Aaron Lynch, LB/DE (Bears): One year, $4MM. $1.25MM guaranteed. $1MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).

Contract Details/Restructures: 3/18/18

Let’s take a look at the most recent new contracts and restructures around the NFL:

New Contracts

Restructures

  • Rams: Converted Tavon Austin‘s 2018 pay ($3MM base salary, $5MM roster bonus) to $1MM base salary, $4MM roster bonus, and $3MM in incentives ($2MM for game-day active incentives and $1MM in combined rushing/receiving yards) (Twitter links via Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports). Austin can still make $8MM this year if he hits all incentives.

Cardinals Sign OL Justin Pugh

The Cardinals bolstered their offensive line on Friday night by signing former Giants left guard Justin Pugh, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets

The NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo tweets the contract is five-year deal worth just over $45MM.

The Cardinals were in search of interior line help and Pugh represented one of the best remaining options.The team was attempting to land former Panthers guard Andrew Norwell, but the All-Pro guard signed with the Jaguars earlier in the week. He missed half of 2017 with injuries, but he is a former first-round pick who started in all of his 63 games with the Giants. Recently, he was cleared to resume football activities.

A big selling point with Pugh is his versatility. He has played every position along the line except for center. The majority of his time in the NFL has been split between right tackle and left guard.

The move was the second addition to the Cardinals offensive line on Friday. Earlier in the day, the team signed offensive tackle Andre Smith to a two-year deal.

[RELATED: Cardinals Depth Chart]

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Interested In OL Justin Pugh

Giants free agent offensive lineman Justin Pugh is weighing an offer from the Cardinals, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). At the same time, the Colts are working on flying him in for a visit. 

Pugh has experience at four different offensive line positions and stands as one of the best free agents left on the board. He missed half of 2017 due to injuries but he was recently cleared to resume football activities, so it seems likely that he’ll sign soon.

Last year, the Colts ranked dead last in adjusted sack rate and 18th in adjusted line yards, per Football Outsiders, so they’re looking to improve the O-Line.

The Colts have a swing tackle of their own to re-sign in Jack Mewhort, but it’s unclear if the Colts have serious interest in bringing him back.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

The Top 25 Remaining NFL Free Agents

Many of this year’s top free agents came off of the board during the legal tampering period, including Kirk Cousins, Trumaine Johnson, Sammy Watkins, and Allen Robinson. Still plenty of the names from our list of the Top 50 Free Agents remain, including some new additions. Here’s a rundown of the players to keep an eye on as free agency officially begins, ranked roughly by their expected contract value:

1. Ndamukong Suh, DT (Dolphins): The Dolphins bailed on Suh’s mega contract midway through, freeing him up to sign another high-priced contract. He won’t get anything close to a six-year, $114MM deal this time around, but he should settle in at an AAV that keeps him among the best compensated players at his position. Last year, Pro Football Focus ranked Suh fifth among 122 interior defenders. 

2. Tyrann Mathieu, S (Cardinals): The Cardinals worked feverishly to hammer out a new contract with the Honey Badger, but the two sides could not come to terms on a deal to lessen his 2018 cap hit. He has been released, allowing him to hit free agency as the best safety available. The Jets are not believed to be interested, despite his connection with head coach Todd Bowles. The other tenant of the Meadowlands, however, could have interest thanks to the presence of former Arizona DC James Bettcher.

3. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson may have lost some luster following the trade that sent him from the Jets to the Seahawks, but he among the best defensive tackles currently available. With plenty of cap space remaining, Richardson should find a lucrative deal, though it probably won’t come from Seattle. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will fetch about $9MM/year.

4. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe missed out on a big payday last year when teams shied away from him due to lingering back issues. After turning in his second consecutive 16-game season, things could be different this time. For the record – Poe has missed only two regular season games over the course of his career, so he boasts a better attendance record than a lot of other veterans on this list. He’s unlikely to circle back to Atlanta.

5. Josh Sitton, G (Bears): With Andrew Norwell off of the board, Sitton stands as the best guard on the market. He’s missed six games over the last two years, but he has four Pro Bowl appearances to his credit. He’s set to meet with the Dolphins.

6. A.J. McCarron, QB (Bengals): It’s difficult to peg McCarron’s value heading into free agency. Outside of some quality starts in 2015, there isn’t much film out there on McCarron, despite that fact that he has spent four years in the NFL. Hue Jackson was itching to reunite with McCarron, but the Browns no longer seem a likely destination for him after the acquisition of Tyrod Taylor. It’s also hard to see him landing with the QB-needy Jets after they re-signed Josh McCown and added Teddy Bridgewater. McCarron will find a home, but it may not be as a starter. [UPDATE: McCarron has signed with the Bills]

7. E.J. Gaines, CB (Bills): Injuries in the fall limited Gaines to just 11 games last season, but he proved to be a quality return for the Bills in the Watkins trade, in addition to the second-round pick that came with him. Gaines graded out as the No. 13 cornerback in the league last year, per PFF, and he just turned 26 in February. Gaines missed all of ’15 due to injury and didn’t look all that sharp in ’16, but timing is everything in free agency. You can expect multiple teams to call on him and the Texans could still have interest, even after inking Aaron Colvin.

8. Eric Reid, S (49ers): Reid is just 26 and is undoubtedly a starting quality safety. He has both youth and versatility on his side, but it’s possible that his anthem protest participation could hurt him when it comes to some suitors. Injuries over the last two seasons will hurt his market as well.

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Cardinals To Meet With OL Justin Pugh

Justin Pugh‘s free agent tour is set to begin. He’ll meet with the Cardinals on Thursday, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.

The Cardinals are in search of interior line help and Pugh represents one of the best remaining options. He missed half of 2017 with injuries, but he is a former first-round pick who started in all of his 63 games with the Giants. Recently, he was cleared to resume football activities.

Pugh’s versatility is also a major plus. He has experience playing every position on the offensive line, save for center.

The Cardinals were targeting Andrew Norwell – the best guard in this year’s crop – but he is now the property of the Jaguars. Josh Sitton is still available, but there’s no word yet on whether Arizona has interest. Sitton’s first visit will take place with the Dolphins.

Justin Pugh Cleared For Football Activities

Justin Pugh‘s free agency prospects just got a bit brighter. Per Austin Knoblauch of NFL.com, the Giants lineman and free-agent-to-be has been cleared to resume all football activities after an MRI revealed no structural damage in his back.

New York drafted Pugh in the first round of the 2013 draft, and this year will mark the Syracuse product’s first venture into the open market. He has lined up all along the offensive line for the Giants, and his versatility will certainly make him more attractive to potential bidders. However, he has not suited up for a full 16-game campaign since his rookie year, and advanced metrics have never been overly fond of his play. He graded out as the No. 52 guard in the league in 2017, per Pro Football Focus, and he ended the year on season-ending IR with a back injury (he ultimately missed half of last season due to injury).

Nonetheless, his medical clearance and the fact that this year’s crop of free agent lineman is pretty slim (only Andrew Norwell and Nate Solder rank above him per PFR’s most recent rankings) should result in a fairly robust market for Pugh’s services. PFR lists him as a tackle, though an acquiring team may sign him as a guard with the ability to kick out to tackle if necessary.

The Giants, who are reportedly preparing to make a major push for Norwell, have not ruled out a reunion with Pugh.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.