Justin Pugh

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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.

Cardinals Rework Justin Pugh’s Deal

The Cardinals have restructured Justin Pugh‘s contract, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. The new deal will trim Pugh’s base salary from $9.8MM to $5.5MM, freeing up a nice chunk of change for Arizona heading into free agency. 

It’s a substantial pay cut for the veteran offensive guard, though he can still recoup $1.5MM via incentives. The 31-year-old (32 in August) joined the Cardinals on a five-year, $45MM deal in 2018, though he has forfeited a good chunk of change since then. Last year, Pugh took a pay cut that dropped his base salary from $7.75MM to $5MM.

The former first-round pick has stabilized his career while working mostly at left guard over the past three seasons. After injuries derailed his 2017 and ’18 seasons, Pugh has started 44 games since Kyler Murray‘s 2019 arrival.

Despite the contract adjustments, Pugh remains signed through the 2022 season. He’ll now have an opportunity to reclaim some of his value in his walk year.

Cardinals Place Jordan Phillips On IR

Just a few days ago, the Cardinals activated Jordan Phillips from the reserve/COVID list. On Thursday, the Cardinals parked him once again, this time on injured reserve. In a related move, offensive lineman Justin Pugh has been brought back from the COVID list.

Phillips was dealing with an undisclosed injury throughout the summer and his condition still isn’t quite clear. Last year, a balky hamstring let to two separate IR stints and a total of seven missed games. In his nine contests, Phillips registered two sacks and eleven total stops from the right defensive tackle spot.

The Cardinals furnished Phillips with a three-year, $40MM in 2020 that included $18.5MM guaranteed. Phillips enjoyed a remarkable turnaround in Buffalo, but Arizona has yet to see him at his best. In 2019, his last healthy season, he tallied 9.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits for the Bills.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/18/21

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Arizona Cardinals

Dallas Cowboys

  • Signed: K Lirim Hajrullahu

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Miami Dolphins

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: LB Samuel Eguavoen; Eguavoen tested positive for the coronavirus

New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Claimed (from Steelers): OT Brandon Walton
  • Waived/injured: S Raven Greene

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/29/21

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Arizona Cardinals

Houston Texans

  • Signed: WR Jordan Veasy

Indianapolis Colts

Las Vegas Raiders

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Signed: OT Chidi Okeke
  • Waived: OT Calvin Ashley

Tennessee Titans

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: LB Bud Dupree; Dupree remains on Tennessee’s active/PUP list as well

Washington Football Team

Cardinals G Justin Pugh Accepts Pay Cut

The Cardinals have added a few key pieces this offseason. One of their starting offensive linemen agreed to a pay cut to help them do so.

In the wake of the Cards adding J.J. Watt, A.J. Green and Rodney Hudson, three-year Cardinals guard starter Justin Pugh revealed he accepted a pay cut (Twitter link). Pugh signed a five-year, $45MM deal in 2018 but agreed to trim some of his 2021 salary recently.

Pugh will drop his 2021 base salary from $7.75MM to $5MM, SI.com’s Howard Balzer notes. In exchange for Pugh agreeing to the slight reduction, the Cardinals will guarantee $4MM of his 2021 base. The Cardinals created nearly $5MM in cap space by making this move, with Pugh’s cap number set to drop from $11.2MM to $6.9MM. He can collect up to $1MM in per-game roster bonuses as well, per Balzer.

Cards GM Steve Keim said Monday he views Pugh as the team’s starting left guard going forward. The former first-round pick has stabilized his career while working at this position over the past two seasons. After injuries derailed his 2017 and ’18 seasons, Pugh has started 31 games since Kyler Murray‘s 2019 arrival. Pugh, 30, remains signed through the 2022 season.

NFC West Rumors: Seahawks, Rams, Kupp

You can expect the Seahawks to add a veteran defensive tackle following Jarran Reed‘s suspension, Brady Henderson of ESPN.com tweets. He also offers a couple of names to keep an eye on: Earl Mitchell and Corey Liuget have both been linked to Seattle and are still available.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • Rams receiver Cooper Kupp will not have to start training camp on the physically unable to perform list, Steve Wyche of NFL Media tweets. That’s huge for Kupp, who tore his left ACL in November. The receiver has been vocal about his desire to play in Week 1 and it sounds like he’ll be ready to go for the opener if all goes well from here. Last year, Kupp had 40 catches for 566 yards and six scores before succumbing to injury.
  • A minor bit of news – Cardinals lineman Justin Pugh will shift from right guard back to his native left guard this season (Twitter link via Pugh). Pugh, 29 in August, started in all seven of his games for the Cardinals last year before landing on IR in November. The former first-round pick, unfortunately, has not played a full season since his 2013 rookie year.

Extra Points: Ravens, WRs, Colts, Banogu, Giants

The Ravens could potentially trade for a wide receiver before the start of the regular season, but there aren’t exactly a bevy of top-end pass-catchers on the trade block, as Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic writes. Baltimore used its first- and third-round picks on wideouts Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin, respectively, adding them to a depth chart that already includes Willie Snead, Seth Roberts, Michael Floyd, and others. Given that the Ravens parted ways with both Michael Crabtree and John Brown earlier this offseason, they could be looking for extra depth, but it seems unlikely they’ll be able to land a true No. 1 wide receiver via trade.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Colts are moving second-round pick Ben Banogu to defensive end, according to Kevin Bowen of 1010 The Fan. Banogu played defensive end at TCU, but as Bowen writes, Banogu spent his collegiate career as a stand-up edge rusher, whereas he’ll be in a three-point stance in Indianapolis. “Can he do different things and put him in different spots?” said defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. “No question he can do that. But let’s get his feet on solid ground at one spot and then kind of develop him from there.” Justin Houston and Jabaal Sheard are locked in as the Colts’ starting defensive ends, so Banogu will compete with 2018 second-rounder Kemoko Turay for reserve playing time.
  • The Giants‘ offensive lines in 2016 and 2017 were billed as among the NFL’s worst, but as Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com points out, many members of those front fives still have jobs around the league, and some are penciled in as starters. Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg are on expensive deals in Arizona and San Francisco, respectively, while Ereck Flowers is projected as a starting guard for Washington. Bobby Hart is the Bengals’ top right tackle, while guard John Jerry — who was out of the NFL in 2018 — could now start for Cincinnati following a season-ending injury to rookie tackle Jonah Williams.
  • In case you missed it, the Ravens today worked out former Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey.

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.

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.