When NFL teams were throwing crazy money at offensive linemen, including guards, during the offseason, Justin Pugh of the New York Giants was paying attention. That’s significant because Pugh, the Giants’ 2013 first-round pick, is playing 2017 on his fifth-year option and can be a free agent next off-season.
Here are a couple of comments Pugh made to NJ Advance Media during the off-season that let you know he understands exactly what is happening in the guard market:
"Do you even know who some of those guys are that were getting paid?" Pugh asked, only somewhat rhetorically. "I feel good about where I'm at." ...
"The guard market has gone up," Pugh said told NJ Advance Media after participating in a yoga class at the Health & Fitness Expo at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. "I definitely have taken notice. I've seen what these guys are getting. I've seen guys that I came in with. That's just part of this game. It's part of the business of it. It's the tough part of it, but in this league, if you go out and you produce, you get paid."
Pugh will earn $8.821 million on his fifth-year option during the 2017 season. After that, he will look to take advantage of the exploding guard market to cash in. Let’s look closer at Pugh’s chances of doing that with the Giants as we continue our series of player-by-player profiles of the Giants’ 90-man roster.
2016 Season In Review
Pugh was playing well until a knee injury sidelined him for five games, marking the third straight season during which Pugh has missed games with an injury. He missed two games in both 2014 (quad) and 2015 (concussion). He finished the season with the 16th-best Pro Football Focus grade among guards, 83.2. That was just slightly below the career-best 86.7 he posted in 2015.
2017 Season Outlook
Honestly, it depends on health. Pugh has found a home at guard after two seasons at right tackle. The Giants use his athleticism to pull and trap, and his presence helps left tackle Ereck Flowers.
Pugh missed mandatory mini-camp because of what he said was “a little tweak in my back.” If Pugh has a healthy season a big contract from the Giants could be the reward. He is a good player and it would behoove the Giants to keep as much of their core together as possible. If Pugh misses games because of injury again, things could change.