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Does Justin Pugh want to return to the Giants?

Could team’s former first-round pick help 2023 Giants’ offensive line

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The New York Giants selected Justin Pugh out of Syracuse in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. His time in New York was respectable, although not spectacular, as he transitioned between playing right tackle and left guard. The now 32-year-old is coming off a five-year, $44.7 million contract from the Arizona Cardinals.

Pugh caught the eye of many Giants fans on Tuesday night after sending this tweet to a New York Jets fan wishing for his services:

Giants Twitter seemed to respond with positivity, and a reunion would likely benefit both parties - at the right price. The Giants' interior offensive line was improved from 2021 but was far from a finished product. Pugh’s health may be at the forefront of general manager Joe Schoen’s mind; the former Giants’ first-round pick tore his right ACL in Week 6.

The basics

Age: 33 in the 2023 season
Height: 6-foot-5 | Weight: 311
Position: Left guard
Experience: 10 seasons
2022 stats: 6 games | Sacks allowed: (0) | Pressures allowed (8) | 262 total snaps all at LG

The skinny has Pugh earning $5.5 million average annual value on his upcoming contract - I would be surprised if that happened, and would not entertain it for the Giants. Pugh always was a smart player who is functionally athletic. However, his lengthy injury history and age cannot be ignored.

Other than the torn ACL suffered this season, Pugh has had several knee, back, shoulder, neck, and calf issues, along with an elbow strain in his past since just 2018. Health is an issue for Pugh, albeit he is effective when he’s on the football field.

In his 4,720 pass-blocking snaps, Pugh has allowed 232 pressures and 24 sacks. He hasn’t allowed more than 21 pressures in a season since 2017 - his last year with the Giants. In recent years, Pugh has played almost exclusively as a left guard where he has 4,579 career snaps. He has 2,453 career snaps at right tackle, most recently in 2019 where he took 123 snaps at that position. He also has 344 snaps at right guard and 156 at left tackle.

Pugh’s ability to handle several positions along the offensive line speaks to his adaptability and intelligence as a football player. According to Pro Football Focus, Pugh hasn’t surrendered more than one sack in a season since 2019.

The Giants undoubtedly need competition along their offensive line. The 2022 competition led to a tandem approach at left guard with Joshua Ezeudu, Nick Gates, and Ben Bredeson; all three spent time injured, but there was a rotation of at least two players at a time for much of the season.

Ideally, the Giants won’t have to do that and one player will seize the day. However, until then, it’s not terrible to have several players skilled enough to fight for the starting job by earning snaps throughout the year.

I don’t know if Pugh can compete for a starting spot on the Giants’ offensive line. The recent ACL injury and his age suggest it would be a challenge. Still, I don’t see anything wrong with bringing Pugh back on a cheap veteran contract with incentives.

The Giants could do worse than adding a positive locker-room presence who is technically sound and experienced at several positions. New York won’t have to rely on Pugh, but if he can prove healthy and effective, then they have another option to compete along the offensive line.