Trivia question: Which New York Giants 2020 undrafted free agent received the most guaranteed money to sign with the team? No cheating and looking at Spotrac or Over The Cap.
You might guess Maryland running back Javon Leake. Maybe Ohio State wide receiver Austin Mack. How about Case Cookus, since he is a quarterback? Good guesses, but wrong.
The UDFA who got the most guaranteed money from the Giants is Rhode Island offensive lineman Kyle Murphy. Don’t believe me? Well. now you can go look it up for yourself.
Rhode Island coach Jim Fleming told me during a phone conversation that Murphy to the Giants was a “home run” for both player and team.
“I think it’s a good opportunity, a great opportunity for him and for you guys as well because of Kyle’s versatility,” Fleming said. “I think he’s a guy that as you get your hands on him and watch his work ethic and his skill set I think you’ll be extremely excited about the value that he can bring because of the versatility.
“The people who can play outside, inside, snap the ball are guys that are very valuable.”
Let’s take a closer look.
Contract: Year 1 of three-year, $2.297 million undrafted free agent deal | Guaranteed: $97,000
How he got here
Murphy was a four-year starter at Rhode Island (yes, where our Joe DeLeone went to school). He played all across the line in 43 games (36 starts). Murphy started 21 games at left tackle, nine at left guard, five at right tackle and one at center.
“He played left tackle for us as a necessity but we’ve always known that his future is probably going to be more along the lines of center-guard positions in the NFL,” Fleming said.
Fleming named Murphy a team captain for Rhode Island in 2019, the first time he has done that in a coaching career that began in 1985 and has seen him spend eight seasons (six at Rhode Island) as a head coach. Fleming said it was an “easy” decision to do that.
“He’s a great kid, an outstanding worker,” Fleming said. “Kyle’s one of the better ones I’ve been around.”
So, let’s cut right to the chase. Yes, along with Nick Gates and fifth-round pick Shane Lemieux Murphy has to be considered yet another potential center conversion prospect.
“I know that he has the ability to do so [play center], Fleming said. “I think he’s smart enough to do so.
“I’ve always thought that his skill set probably lends itself more inside.
“Kyle is a finisher … when you’re looking at that position his technique is sound, he’s physical and he’s got a real good mean streak in him.”
Former Giant Rich Seubert worked with Murphy at TEST Football Academy prior to the draft.
“I like Kyle. He works hard, he’s got good feet. He’s very smart. I look at him and I think he can play either guard or center,” Seubert said. “The way he moves, his pass sets, his steps in run blocks and his pulls he had good feet. He was very good within his 5-yard box. He can move.”
Murphy faces a difficult road as an undrafted free agent, though the money the Giants paid him tells you they were keenly interested in adding him to their 90-man roster.
Spencer Pulley is an experienced center. The Giants also have third-year man Nick Gates and fifth-round pick Shane Lemieux in line for consideration at that spot. Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler are the starting guards, and both Lemieux and Gates could serve as backups there.
“He’s just going to need that opportunity,” Seubert said. “I told him it’s going to be tough, the Giants drafted three offensive linemen. He’s starting right off the bat behind the eight ball with those three guys.”
Seubert was, of course, an undrafted free agent who had a 10-year career with the Giants, started 88 regular-season games, was part of what might have been the league’s best offensive line for a few seasons, and won a Super Bowl.
Gates was an undrafted free agent. As GM of the Carolina Panthers, Dave Gettleman signed Andrew Norwell as an undrafted player. He was an All-Pro left guard for the Panthers in 2017.
“I’m excited for him. He’s a smart kid, he’s a talented kid, he’s physical and he moves well. It’s kind of what you look for in an offensive lineman,” Seubert said of Murphy.
“Kevin Boothe could play everywhere and David Diehl played everywhere. He’s [Murphy] a guy that’s not going to have an ego saying this is what I am. I think he’s going to have an open mind to wherever they stick him he’s going to make the most of it.”
Both Fleming and Seubert indicated they felt Murphy isn’t a finished product.
“I don’t know if he’s reached his true physical limitation,” Fleming said. “He’s strong as hell and can do all the lifts and that stuff, he represents fine there, but I do think there’s some upside for him.”
“He is coming from Rhode Island. I came from Western Illinois and coming from a 1-AA school I think there’s more upside for us, per se than the guys from the bigger universities,” Seubert said. “I think he does have pretty good upside. I think he could grow into a pretty good player.”