Justin Pugh

OL Rumors: Steelers, 49ers, Jets, Fins, Pugh

The Steelers may have executed a permanent switch at right tackle, and Chukwuma Okorafor believes it came because of comments he made near the end of the team’s Week 8 loss to the Jaguars. Pittsburgh benched Okorafor for its Thursday-night game against Tennessee, moving first-round pick Broderick Jones into the lineup. Okorafor said (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Brian Batko) the Steelers benched him because he was “acting out” toward the end of the Pittsburgh-Jacksonville game. Mike Tomlin said (via The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly) Jones was deserving of an opportunity and helped the Steelers “provide a spark.”

Signed to a three-year, $29.25MM deal in 2022, Okorafor has been the Steelers’ starting right tackle since 2020. The team drafted Jones with the intent on making him its future left tackle, but a configuration in which left tackle Dan Moore moved to the right side to accommodate the rookie was floated as the more likely scenario this offseason. Since the Week 9 change, Jones and Okorafor said (via Kaboly and the Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac) they expect the Moore-Jones starting duo to remain due to Jones receiving the first-team reps this week. The Steelers’ depth chart lists Jones as the RT starter, though the Georgia product said he would prefer to play left tackle, where he lined up for the SEC powerhouse. Okorafor believes what he said has resulted in “significant” ramifications but maintains his benching was not performance-based, creating an interesting storyline to follow in Pittsburgh.

Here are some O-line subplots from elsewhere around the NFL:

  • Missing the past two games with an ankle injury, Trent Williams returned to a limited practice Thursday. Kyle Shanahan said the 49ers‘ All-Pro left tackle has dealt with more than a low ankle sprain, via 49ersWebZone.com’s David Bonilla. The 49ers lost both the games Williams missed, after dropping from the unbeaten ranks — in Cleveland — following Williams’ injury-driven exit in Week 6. A limited practice represents a good sign for Williams’ Week 10 availability and San Francisco’s offensive capabilities.
  • The Jets may soon be without yet another offensive lineman. Robert Saleh described Billy Turner as encountering a “concerning” injury, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport notes the veteran blocker suffered a broken bone in his hand. This will leave Turner’s status uncertain for the Jets’ Week 10 tilt. Turner has not practiced this week, pointing to an absence. The Jets have turned to Turner at guard in the wake of Connor McGovern and Wes Schweitzer‘s IR trips. The team is likely to have Duane Brown back, however; the 38-year-old tackle — who remains on IR — has practiced fully this week. Saleh recently pointed to Brown’s return kicking Mekhi Becton back to right tackle.
  • Although left tackle Terron Armstead came off IR in time to face the Chiefs, the Dolphins played their Germany game without both starting guards. Isaiah Wynn is on IR with a potential season-ending injury, and Robert Hunt missed the game because of a hamstring ailment. Wynn fill-in Robert Jones also left the game, due to a hyperextended knee. While Mike McDaniel said Jones does not need surgery, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson notes Lester Cotton and 2022 left guard starter Liam Eichenberg are set to vie for the starting role before the Dolphins return to action in Week 11. A third-year UDFA who made his first career start in Week 9, Jones is likely to miss some time, per McDaniel.
  • Justin Pugh signed a one-year, $1.43MM deal to rejoin the Giants last month. Pugh’s second Giants contract includes an incentive package worth $2.1MM, he revealed on his NetWorth Podcast (via the New York Daily News’ Pat Leonard). Pugh can earn part of that $2.1MM by hitting the 50%, 70% and 90% playing-time thresholds from the point he debuted (Week 6). Despite the October arrival, Pugh has started — at both guard and tackle — in each of the four games in which he has played this season.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/18/23

Minor transactions from around the league today:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Denver Broncos

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

New York Giants

Seattle Seahawks

The Giants are dealing with an unprecedented epidemic at offensive tackle right now as their injury report starts to read like a phone book. Already missing starter Andrew Thomas and primary backup Matt Peart, New York went into Sunday night’s game with Evan Neal and Joshua Ezeudu bookending the line. Pugh had recently been brought in to help address the team’s depth at guard, but when Ezeudu exited the game with a toe injury, and was subsequently placed on injured reserve, Pugh kicked out and played the rest of the game at tackle with the first-team offense. Pugh will now serve as depth at tackle, as will Philips, who started his career in Baltimore as a guard before proving his versatility for the Ravens and Giants. He started five games for New York last year.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/14/23

Here are today’s minor transactions heading into the Week 6 weekend:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Dean took the starting role the Eagles had in store for him in Week 1, but a foot injury interrupted his second NFL campaign. The 22-year-old was poised to return ahead of Sunday’s game by returning to practice earlier this week, though, and a first-team role is expected to await him upon suiting up. Dean taking on a heavy workload will relegate Nicholas Morrow (who was promoted from the practice squad) to backup duty despite the latter’s strong performances so far.

Seattle has seen fellow corners Devon Witherspoon and Riq Woolen enjoy considerable success, but the team’s secondary will be shorthanded without Bryant. The latter will miss at least the next four weeks as a result of the IR move as he recovers from a toe injury. The 2022 fourth-rounder, who has seen his defensive snap share jump from 65% to 77% this year, has not played since Week 2.

Giants Add G Justin Pugh To Practice Squad

In the wake of one of the worst pass-protecting performances in primetime NFL history, the Giants will add an experienced reinforcement. Their recent Justin Pugh visit will produce a reunion.

Pugh is rejoining the Giants on a practice squad deal, NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo tweets. A Giants first-round pick back in 2013, Pugh spent five seasons with the franchise before joining the Cardinals as a free agent in 2018. Pugh expressed interest in rejoining the Giants late this summer and worked out for his old team last month. He will join a team reeling up front.

The 11th-year veteran suffered a torn ACL in Week 6 of last season, cutting his Cardinals contract year short. Pugh, 33, considered retirement before last season but had said he received interest from a few teams this offseason. The in-season signing likely comes due to his health, but he received clearance in late August.

The Giants have top-10 draftees at both tackle spots, and second-rounder John Michael Schmitz is in place to stop a center carousel. But the team has not invested too much at guard. Mark Glowinski is attached to a midlevel free agency pact, but the ex-Colts starter needed to compete for his job in training camp and was benched in Week 2. While the Giants did not pursue guards in free agency, letting Nick Gates walk, they are rather desperate for help now.

Injuries, however, have significantly affected the team. Joshua Ezeudu, a guard by trade, has started in place of Thomas at left tackle. Schmitz suffered an injury on the Giants’ failed effort to replicate the Eagles’ “Tush Push/Brotherly Shove” play Monday night. Brian Daboll said (via Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano) the team had not repped that particular QB sneak in practice, only doing so in a walkthrough. The Giants also finished Monday night’s game without backup Shane Lemieux, who suffered a groin injury. The Seahawks finished the 24-3 win with a Monday Night Football-record 11 sacks.

After vacillating between guard and right tackle during his first Giants go-round, Pugh signed with the Cardinals as a guard. He signed a five-year, $45MM contract and started 56 games for the team from 2018-22. (He started 63 games for the Giants, being a regular on the last batch of Eli Manning-led teams.) Pugh represented an O-line constant during Kyler Murray‘s ascent, helping the team to the playoffs in 2021. That season, Pugh ranked fifth among guards in ESPN’s pass block win rate metric.

The Giants will hope the veteran blocker can reprise his pre-injury form. It should be expected Pugh will be promoted to the active roster soon, pending a successful ramp-up period.

Giants Audition G Justin Pugh

Justin Pugh said recently he was interested in rejoining the Giants. Issues along New York’s offensive line now have the team looking into a reunion.

The Giants brought in Pugh for a workout Wednesday, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Since they are stationed in Arizona after their Cardinals matchup — due to the Thursday assignment in San Francisco — Pugh made for a logical workout, as the five-year Cardinals guard still lives in Arizona.

Pugh, 33, last played for the Giants in 2017, closing out a five-year tenure with the team. The Giants drafted Pugh in the 2013 first round but let him walk during the 2018 free agency period, when he signed with the Cardinals. Working as a full-time guard starter in Arizona, Pugh saw his on-field run in the desert end after an October 2022 ACL tear. The Syracuse alum has been cleared and said he had been in talks with a handful of teams last month. The 10-year veteran has made 119 career starts.

Big Blue declared left guard Ben Bredeson out due to a concussion he suffered against the Cardinals on Sunday. The Giants had benched veteran right guard Mark Glowinski prior to the Bredeson injury, inserting the untested Marcus McKethan into the lineup. The Bredeson setback led to Glowinski returning. The Giants will face the 49ers without Bredeson or left tackle Andrew Thomas, who will miss a second straight game due to a hamstring injury.

Pugh played both tackle and guard while in New York, settling in as an inside blocker toward the end of his tenure with the team. The Cardinals gave Pugh a five-year, $44.8MM deal in 2018. After helping the Cardinals snap a playoff drought in 2021, Pugh considered retirement. But he returned for the final year of his contract last season. That campaign ended after five games.

The Giants held a lengthy three-way guard battle in camp, pitting Glowinski, Bredeson and Joshua Ezeudu against each other for the two starting spots. With the likes of Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux out of the picture, the Giants went with Bredeson opposite Glowinski. But Bredeson suffering a concussion during a game in which the team benched Glowinski — a 2022 free agency addition — does not paint the picture of stability up front for the team. Ezeudu, a 2022 third-round pick the team expected to win one of the guard jobs, replaced Thomas at left tackle in Week 2.

OL Justin Pugh Cleared For Drills, Expected To Take Visits

Justin Pugh is on the comeback trail. 10 months after tearing his ACL, the veteran offensive lineman has been cleared to do drills and is seeking his next opportunity, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (via Twitter).

The free agent lineman is reportedly participating in positional drills with LeCharles Bentley, a former Pro Bowl OL and current NFL senior advisor of player performance and development. Pugh is expected to visit with suitors in the “near future.”

Pugh himself provided some more insight into his free agency. In a conversation with Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, the veteran admitted that he’s actually talked with six teams and is hoping to join a contender.

“It seems like after the preseason games happened, a few more teams reached out,” Pugh said (via Leonard on Twitter). “So we’ll see how the next few week go. Really looking to sign with one of those teams that’s in the top echelon. Playoff contention last year, has a chance to make a step this next year. And I can really come in and add value to that team.

“Not really looking for a rebuild where I have to come in and mentor a rookie quarterback. [I’m] looking for that team that’s missing a few pieces, needs some depth on the o-line. I know wherever I go, I’m going to end up starting. Offensive linemen don’t grow on trees.”

Pugh was limited to only five games last season before suffering his season-ending ACL tear. The lineman only got through one of his five seasons in Arizona unscathed, with Pugh ultimately starting 56 of his 57 games with the organization. It’s been a bit since Pugh ranked as an above-average guard by Pro Football Focus, although the site consistently graded him among the best tackles in the league during his time with the Giants.

Pugh was a first-round pick by New York in 2013 and spent five seasons with the organization, starting all 63 of his appearances. The 33-year-old told Leonard that the Giants are “one of those teams that [he’s] definitely eyeing” at the moment, with the lineman noting that he’d love to end his career where it started.

Cardinals Place WR Marquise Brown On IR, Activate G Cody Ford

Hopes for a DeAndre HopkinsRobbie AndersonMarquise Brown trio will be on hold for a while. The Cardinals moved Brown to IR on Thursday, sidelining the diminutive playmaker for at least four weeks.

Brown received a second opinion on his foot injury Wednesday, and Dr. Robert Anderson confirmed a four- to six-week recovery timetable. Brown will be shut down until close to December. His injury led to the Cardinals making the trade for Anderson, whose Panthers stock cratered after his Week 6 banishment.

The Cardinals are also not wasting much time with Cody Ford. Just two days after the recent trade acquisition returned to practice, the Cards activated him from IR. This marks Arizona’s third injury activation this season. Ford will take the roster spot of Justin Pugh. An ACL tear sent the veteran guard to IR.

Arizona is also promoting Rodrigo Blankenship to its gameday 55-man roster, along with running back Corey Clement. Signed on Tuesday, Blankenship is in position to work as Arizona’s latest Matt Prater fill-in option. Prater has missed the past two games due to a hip injury. Matt Ammendola kicked in his place during that span, but the Cards are making a change here. Arizona has yet to rule out Prater, but the veteran kicker did not practice this week.

Hopkins will make his 2022 debut tonight, after serving a six-game PED suspension. The Cardinals traded for Brown during the draft, but news of Hopkins’ ban broke shortly after. Brown is under contract through 2023, like Anderson, but the former’s status is more assured beyond 2022. Tonight, however, it will be Anderson teaming with Hopkins. That said, ESPN.com’s Ed Werder notes the recently acquired receiver will only have a package of plays (Twitter link). A 10-15% snap share is expected for the former Jets and Panthers wideout.

Pugh’s injury opens the door for Ford, who joins Brown and Kyler Murray as Oklahoma alums chosen in the 2019 draft. Unlike the better-known ex-Sooners, Ford is in a contract year. The Bills shipped the underwhelming guard to the Cardinals for a fifth-round pick.

A 2019 second-rounder, Ford has made 29 career starts. It is not a lock he adds to that total soon, with the Cards having veteran eighth-year vet Max Garcia in the fold opposite Will Hernandez. But Ford provides decent depth for a team that suddenly needs it up front. Ford, who suffered an ankle injury not long after the Cardinals traded for him, joins Billy Price as notable Cardinals O-line depth pieces.

Cardinals G Justin Pugh Out For Season

Justin Pugh joined Rodney Hudson in considering retirement this offseason. In order to continue his career, the veteran guard will now need to go through an extensive rehab effort. Pugh is believed to have torn an ACL, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com tweets.

While Pugh has a notable injury history, this will be his shortest NFL season. Pugh, 32, missed the Cardinals’ opener because of a neck injury. This five-game season will also close out the veteran offensive lineman’s contract, which he signed in 2018. The 10th-year veteran’s latest setback obviously hurts his value for a potential free agency run in 2023.

Arizona paid up for Pugh four years ago, giving him a five-year, $45MM contract to head west. The former Giants first-rounder has now played five seasons with two teams. Pugh’s Arizona commitment ended up giving Kyler Murray a long-term interior presence; the Syracuse alum has 119 career starts under his belt.

The Giants struggled to assemble quality lines during Eli Manning‘s final seasons, but Pugh was part of five New York fronts, working as a guard and at right tackle. Pugh suffered a midseason injury during his first Cardinals campaign — that one also a knee malady — but he was mostly healthy during Murray’s rookie-contract seasons. Pugh played 45 games from 2019-21, being the team’s interior constant as Murray grew into a Pro Bowler.

Pugh agreed to a pay cut during the 2021 offseason, but after a 2022 salary reduction, the Syracuse product said he contemplated retirement. Hudson also did so, but the veteran center reported to Cards training camp as well. This injury hurts one of the league’s most experienced O-lines, a unit that headed into the season housing a 12th-year center, a 10th-year left guard, an 11th-year right tackle (Kelvin Beachum) and an eighth-year left tackle (D.J. Humphries).

Pro Football Focus ranks Pugh as this season’s No. 36 overall guard. The Cardinals are seeing a nice bounce-back season from free agent flier Will Hernandez, whom PFF slots in the top 20. Max Garcia replaced Pugh against the Seahawks; the eighth-year vet started 11 games last season. Pugh’s injury also makes the Cards’ decision to trade for Cody Ford a bit more important. Arizona designated Ford for return Tuesday and could activate him at any point in the next three weeks.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/10/22

Today’s minor moves around the league, as teams prepare for the first Sunday slate of regular season games:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

The Cardinals’ moves come as a reaction to yesterday’s injury news. Baccellia’s roster spot was opened up in the short-term by the injury to Rondale Moore, but he won’t simply be a stop-gap. Arizona signed the 25-year-old to a two-year deal to remain on the main roster, per Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network (Twitter link). A UDFA out of Washington, Baccellia has yet to make a regular season NFL appearance.

Likewise, the fact that Ford will miss at least the first four weeks of the season makes the re-acquisition of Garcia a logical one. The former fourth-rounder has plenty of guard experience, including his three seasons spent in Arizona. It was only in 2021 that he logged any starts, but he could provide veteran depth behind Justin Pugh at least until Ford is able to return.

Addison, 35, was one of several veteran signings the Texans made this offseason to add depth to their front seven. He had a productive season with the Bills last season, notching seven sacks despite not starting any games. In his absence, Harris and Pierre-Louis will provide depth in the edge rush department on Sunday, and likely the short-term future as well.

Quick reminder that standard game day practice squad promotions are a recent development from the new CBA and COVID-19 seasons. Essentially, each team is able to promote two players from the practice squad to the active roster for game days. The players will automatically revert back to the practice squad after the game, not needing to clear waivers before rejoining the developmental roster. A player can only be promoted three times per season. If a team would like to promote a player for a fourth game, they’ll need to go through the normal method of creating space on the 53-man roster to promote them and have them clear waivers before placing them back on the practice squad. That is the difference between “Signed to 53-man roster” from the practice squad and “Promoted from practice squad.”

Latest On Cardinals Offensive Line

Rodney Hudson is a no-show in Arizona. The veteran center hasn’t attended Cardinals mandatory minicamp and doesn’t have an excused absence, coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters (via Darren Urban of the team’s website). The coach wouldn’t reveal why Hudson was staying away from the team, just noting that the two sides were “working through something.”

[RELATED: Center Billy Price To Visit Cardinals]

Hudson was acquired by the Cardinals last offseason, and he started each of his 12 games in 2021 while missing a handful of appearances thanks to rib and shoulder injuries. The 32-year-old still has two years remaining on the three-year, $30MM extension he signed Arizona following his trade from the Raiders. Of course, the offensive lineman’s absence may have nothing to do with money, and considering the Cardinals don’t really have a path to get out of his 2022 salary, it’d make more sense if the front office pursued a reworked deal next offseason. We’ll likely learn more about the situation if Hudson’s absence extends into the preseason.

With the Cardinals down a man, the organization has turned to veteran guard Justin Pugh to pick up the slack at center. Speaking to reporters, Pugh said switching positions could ultimately extend his career.

“I could see myself playing center,” Pugh said. “I’ve capped out money-wise at guard. Why not go out and see if I can play center? In this offseason, with Kyler (Murray), center is a very important position. There are a lot of centers that play older in their years, because physically it’s not as demanding. Mentally it’s much more intense, and that’s where I think I can succeed.

“We’ll try it out. We’ll see how it goes. If I don’t play real well, you’ll see me at left guard.”

Pugh also admitted that he considered hanging up his cleats following the 2021 campaign, and he made it clear that his frustration was due to the pay cut he accepted prior to the season. Ultimately, Pugh re-signed with the organization this offseason on a one-year, $5.5MM pact, and while he ultimately decided to let bygones be bygones, he still sounded a bit worked up about the money he had to sacrifice last year.

“All of a sudden, it’s ‘I’m going to cut your pay,’ and I don’t care what you do, someone cuts your pay by 33 percent, you’re not going to be happy,” Pugh said. “Then you factor in how much you love the game, how much you love being around the guys, how much you love to compete, and there is no dollar amount that can fill that gap.”

Other than Pugh, the Cardinals have limited options at center. As Urban writes, veteran Sean Harlow has some experience playing the position, but similar to Pugh, he’s more of an offensive guard. The team has also tried rookie guard Lecitus Smith at the position throughout minicamp. The team also brought in Billy Price on a free agent visit.