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Justin Pugh’s unexpected effort has created tricky situation for the Giants

As an elevated practice squad player, Pugh could technically refuse to return to the practice squad and sign elsewhere

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

[UPDATE: Per the league’s transaction wire, Pugh did accept a reversion to the practice squad for this week. That likely gives Pugh and the Giants more time to work out a deal].

Justin Pugh’s surprising, inspiring play on Sunday night for the New York Giants — 77 snaps almost a year to the day after surgery for a torn ACL, most at a position where he had played five snaps since 2015 — is a great story. It has also put him and the Giants in an interesting position.

Pugh signed to the Giants’ practice squad less than two weeks ago. He was a standard elevation from that practice squad for Sunday’s game. The Giants now have to either sign him to the 53-man roster or return him to the practice squad — and Pugh has the right to refuse to return to the practice squad and sign with any team as a free agent.

Thus, the 33-year-old Pugh seemingly has the Giants over a barrel. In a league where the Giants are far from the only team seeking mid-season offensive line help, Pugh certainly showed on Sunday that as he gets healthier and stronger he can certainly still play at a quality level.

This is apparently a bridge both sides understood they would eventually have to cross. Via Pat Leonard:

Pugh and the Giants talked transparently entering this. Pugh would try out (as a practice squad player) to prove he was healthy. If he did that, he would be worth a more formidable contract to reflect his value to the active roster. And certainly, last night’s emergency left tackle work qualifies as even more early value than anyone expected. This is simply phase 2 of what he & the #Giants already discussed. Pugh has said all of this on the record.

When Pugh was a guest on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast a few weeks before signing with the Giants, he expressed the desire to play this season. He said that perhaps he would play longer than that if his comeback went well.

Sunday night showed that it is certainly off to a good start.

The Giants currently have 10 offensive linemen on the active roster, not counting Pugh. Someone would likely have to go if the Giants were to sign Pugh to the 53-man roster, which seems like a good idea.

Cap space is at a premium for the Giants, who have only $3.888 million to work with, per Over The Cap. Still, it would seem worth it to figure out a way to work out a deal with Pugh, perhaps one covering the rest of this year and the 2024 season, before someone snatches him away.

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