The Carolina connection between New York Giants GM Dave Gettleman and Panthers’ guard Andrew Norwell, along with the Giants’ need on the offensive line make it seem like a no-brainer that the Giants will make push for Norwell in free agency next month.
What, though, if Norwell proves too expensive for the Giants? He is expected to surpass the five-year, $60 million deal Kevin Zeitler got from the Cleveland Browns last year and become the NFL’s highest-paid guard. What if someone like the Browns ($100 million in cap space), New York Jets ($76 million), Indianapolis Colts ($72 million), or San Francisco 49ers ($71.9 million) decide to outbid the Giants?
The Giants could re-sign Justin Pugh. There is, though, an expectation that after a couple of injury-plagued seasons the Giants will allow Pugh to go cash in a big paycheck somewhere else.
What would the Giants do then? There is the draft, which could be rich in guards who could be available on Day 2. They still have John Jerry and could re-sign free agent D.J. Fluker.
In free agency, though? How about Colts’ guard Jack Mewhort as a Plan B?
Mewhort, 26, is a four-year veteran who has played right tackle and both guard spots for Indianapolis after being selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He is a talented player, but comes with significant injury concerns of his own after a knee issue limited him to 15 games and forced him to injured reserve the past two seasons.
Here is what Pro Football Focus says about Mewhort in its 2018 Free Agency Guide:
A promising start to Mewhort’s career has been derailed by injuries over the last two seasons, as he’s played just 979 snaps since 2015. His first three years saw him post grades between 77.1 and 84.1 before his injury-riddled, 313-snap 2017 season saw him grade at 46.1 overall. Knee issues will be the big question mark for Mewhort as he hits free agency, and if he gets good reports in that area, there will be a market for one of the better young guards in the league.
Pugh and Mewhort actually seem like similar players. Both have some positional flexibility, though whether Mewhort is still a viable right tackle is a good question. Both have injury concerns that might lower their price tags somewhat. Pugh is a year older. Pugh, though, is expected to command a bigger price tag on the open market.
Zack Moore, Over The Cap contributor and author of ‘Caponomics: Building Super Bowl Champions’, looked at the two players this way:
I think that Mewhort signs a deal in the range of four-years, $30 million, so $7.5 million per year. I think Pugh would get slightly more on a long-term deal like Larry Warford’s $8.5 million per year, so $34 over four years. It’s also possible that Pugh and his agent want to play on a one-year deal worth $8-9 million to try and play his way into the top of the market and earn somewhere near $11-12 million a year like Kelechi Osemele or Kevin Zietler. Either way, it’s my belief that both players will be perceived as guards due to not being elite in both the pass and run and that Pugh will be the more expensive of the two.
There is also this consider — Giants’ offensive line coach Hal Hunter was with Indianapolis during the first two years of Mewhort’s career. That is pre-injury, when he was at his best. Head coach Pat Shurmur mentioned “scheme fit” as one of the reasons he hired Hunter. Perhaps Mewhort fits what the Giants are going to want from their offensive linemen.
If the Giants miss on Norwell and lose Pugh to a team willing to give him more than the Giants would be comfortable, with Mewhort be an acceptable option? Or, would you be willing to roll with Jerry, Fluker and whatever guard help the Giants might be able to find in the middle of the draft?