The Arizona Cardinals need offensive line help, and they’ve added a versatile piece in Justin Pugh.
The Arizona Cardinals clearly need offensive line help, coming off a season where they were 30th in the league in rushing (86.6 yards per game) and allowed 52 sacks (tied for third-most in the league). On Friday, they finally took a step to address that need in free agency, signing Justin Pugh to a three-year, $45 million deal.
Pugh spent his first five seasons with the New York Giants, who drafted him the first round (19th overall) in the 2013 draft. He made 63 starts between right tackle, left tackle and left guard, but he is expected shift to right guard with the Cardinals and form a solid duo with Mike Iupati.
Pugh has not played all 16 games in a season since his rookie season. Last year a back issue limited him to eight games, but he did not need surgery and was cleared for football activities just prior to free agency starting.
Pugh’s three-year, $45 million deal reportedly includes $20 million guaranteed.
The Cardinals will swap out a below average guard (Earl Watford) for a below-average tackle in Pugh, as graded by Pro Football Focus for the 2017 season. But it’s obviously not an apples-to-apples comparison.
In his last full season as a guard, 2016 (when he played 11 games), Pugh was graded as the 10th-best offensive lineman in the NFL by Pro Football Focus through his first eight games. So the move inside looks like the right one, even if Jared Veldheer has become an overpaid liability for the Cardinals at right tackle and Pugh could be a replacement there.
Depending on how the guaranteed money is structured, the Cardinals may not necessarily be committed to Pugh for three years. But they have added a starter with some versatility, and Pugh’s health will go a long way toward determining if he brings back value.