Arizona Cardinals' 2018 free agency: Justin Pugh sizable boost to O-line

A breakdown of the Arizona Cardinals' 2018 free-agent signings.

Justin Pugh, OG

The Cardinals are expected to sign offensive lineman Justin Pugh, who played the past five years for the Giants. Here's a closer look at the signing:

Grade: A-: Pugh is the big-name offensive lineman the Cardinals have needed recently and they locked him for the next five seasons -- the same length deal they gave Jared Veldheer in 2014. Pugh is versatile, having played 57.8 percent of his career snaps at right tackle and 38.3 percent at left guard.

What it means: Adding Pugh either means the Cardinals have decided to eventually move on from Veldheer, their right tackle last season, or they'll reshape the offensive line by moving Mike Iupati, their left guard, to right guard after he took a pay cut to remain on the roster. Or, knowing the Cardinals, they'll move Pugh to right guard, where they have a hole at the moment. Pugh started last season at left guard and moved to right tackle because of injuries. Either way, Pugh will be a starter -- it's just a matter of where.

What's the risk: Pugh missed eight games last season because of a back injury that he avoided having surgery to fix. In 2016, Pugh suffered a sprained MCL that caused him to miss games. He hasn't played a full season since his rookie year of 2013. Injuries have prevented Pugh from staying on the field, so they will the biggest risk associated with him. If Pugh's back injury returns and lingers, it can be a major red flag for the rest of his contract. But if he's healthy, Pugh could be one of the best signings of the Cardinals' offseason.


Mike Glennon, QB

The Arizona Cardinals signed quarterback Mike Glennon, who played last year for the Chicago Bears. Here’s a closer look at the signing:

Grade: C-. Simply put, the Cardinals could’ve found a better backup to Sam Bradford. Glennon, who earned $16 million in guaranteed money last season, lost his job with the Bears to rookie Mitchell Trubisky after Week 4.

What it means: As the backup, Glennon will be one snap away from starting. And with Bradford’s injury history, that could happen sooner rather than later, meaning the Cardinals could entrust their offense to Glennon, who hasn’t started more than five games since his rookie season when he started 13 in 2013.

What’s the risk: The main risk associated with Glennon is production. He has a 6-16 career record, while completing 60.6 percent of his passes and throwing 34 touchdowns against 20 interceptions. However, when Glennon was handed the reins to the Bears last season, he went 1-3 while completing 66.4 percent of his passes and throwing four touchdowns to five interceptions. Should Glennon get a shot at starting and have a repeat of his performance last season in Chicago, the Cardinals may repeat the Bears' approach -- especially if the Cardinals draft a quarterback.


Josh Bynes, LB

The Cardinals are expected to re-sign linebacker Josh Bynes, who played the past year with Arizona. Here’s a closer look at the signing:

Grade: B-plus. Bynes played in 14 games last season with one start, proving he could be an every-down inside linebacker and quarterback of the defense.

What it means: Depending on how the rest of free agency plays out, Bynes could be an option to replace Karlos Dansby as Arizona’s starting inside linebacker next to Deone Bucannon. Bynes showed quickly last season his ability to absorb and master the defense. He was reliable as a backup and might be given an opportunity to increase that role in 2018.

What’s the risk: The risk is that Bynes can’t replicate his production from 2017 in 2018, and that receiving the largest contract of his career breeds complacency. Until this deal, Bynes had never made more than $775,000 in a season. His contract is for three years and worth up to $10 million. The 28-year-old missed the final two games last season with a sprained ankle, but injuries aren’t likely to be a risk.


Andre Smith, OT

The Cardinals are expected to sign offensive tackle Andre Smith, who played eight of the past nine years for the Cincinnati Bengals. Here’s a closer look at the signing:

Grade: B. Smith has a long history of injuries, having finished the 2010, 2014 and 2017 seasons on injured reserve. But if he can stay healthy and either earn a starting job or be a reliable backup, his signing could end up paying high dividends for the Cardinals.

What it means: Smith’s signing could impact the future of fellow tackle Jared Veldheer, who was Arizona’s starting right tackle last season -- the same position as Smith. Veldheer is due to make $6.5 million in 2018 with a cap hit of $10.1 million. The Cardinals would save $6.9 million and carry $3.3 million in dead money if they cut Veldheer. But it all depends on if the Cardinals view Smith as a viable option as a starting right tackle.

What’s the risk: The risk with Smith is obvious: injuries. He missed two games last season with a knee injury, five games in 2014 with a triceps injury and eight games in 2010 with a foot injury. If the Cardinals choose to go with Smith over Veldheer and he gets injured, then they would’ve made two costly decisions.


Sam Bradford, QB

The Cardinals are expected to sign Sam Bradford, who played the past two seasons for the Minnesota Vikings. Here’s a closer look at the signing:

Grade: B-minus. The jury is still out -- and will be until the end of the season. If Bradford can stay healthy, he could be the answer the Cardinals need at quarterback. If he gets hurt -- especially early in the season -- then he could be among the worst decisions Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has made in his career.

What it means: The Cardinals needed a quarterback and got one. Now Bradford has to show he was worth the $15 million guaranteed he’s receiving from Arizona, and the only way that can truly happen is by staying healthy. But Bradford gives Arizona a veteran presence at a position where it needed experience, especially if the Cardinals draft a quarterback next month. The Cardinals will still add three more quarterbacks before training camp, but Bradford’s deal signifies he’ll be the starter in 2018 unless something drastic happens.

What’s the risk: The biggest risk with Bradford is injury. He has missed 48 of a possible 128 career games -- the equivalent of three full seasons -- including nine games in 2013 with an ACL injury, all of 2014 with another ACL injury to the same knee, and 14 games last season with a different injury to the same left knee. Another injury could possibly be career ending -- and if it happens, could impact the Cardinals’ 2018 season drastically.