EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dave Gettleman believes in his “hog mollies.” That’s the term he uses for his linemen.
Pugh, center Weston Richburg and guard D.J. Fluker are the three prominent Giants offensive linemen set to become unrestricted free agents this offseason. Deciding who stays and goes will be among the difficult decisions Gettleman faces.
There’s no doubt he’s intent on addressing a unit that has been troublesome for years.
“We’ve got to fix the o-line, let’s be honest,” Gettleman said at his introductory news conference.
Pugh, 27, played well at right tackle and left guard this past season, before missing the final seven games with a back injury. The back checked out structurally last month and should be fine with rest.
He expects to be cleared medically next month and intends to train as usual this offseason without any limitations.
Pugh is excited about the possibility of reaching free agency. He's approaching it with an open mind.
“If I could build you the perfect equation and kind of factor in how much those mean to me – it all goes into it,” he said. “I want to win. I want to win now. I’ve been here five years. I only made the playoffs one time. Being in a good situation, being close to home was great for me. Being so close to my family, always having them around.
“So, all those things go into it. I’m looking forward to getting to it and it’s an exciting time. This is the first time I’ll ever get to choose where I play and the situation that I’m in. Obviously, I’ve grown up in New York. I want to be in New York. But, we’ll see what happens.”
Pugh won’t come cheap. He should have options, especially given his versatility and the lack of quality linemen expected to be available in free agency.
Richburg and Fluker also should have quality markets. Richburg started 46 games in his first three seasons and looked to be a centerpiece for the Giants' line prior to this year. Fluker was a major asset in the run game before landing on injured reserve.
Richburg also finished on IR. He missed the final 12 games of the season with a concussion, but was cleared medically by a specialist 3-4 weeks ago and said he has been good to go for a while. Richburg didn’t necessarily agree with the decision to end his season with 10 games remaining.
“No,” he said. “I wanted to play.”
Brett Jones stepped in and was serviceable in Richburg’s place. That leaves Gettleman with a dilemma: Pay Richburg or keep Jones at a more respectable price (in the range of $2 million).
Richburg, 26, wants to stay.
“Absolutely, I don’t want to go. I thought I was turning the corner and ready to go and then that happened,” he said. “There is a lot of newness coming around here. A lot of changing. Only time will tell how this thing works out.”
The Giants ran the ball better with Fluker in the lineup. They averaged 110.5 yards per game with him; 86.1 yards without him.
Fluker would appear to be an ideal fit for a team that will have a new coach and a new offense that should run the ball more with a general manager who stresses physical football.
That is intriguing to Fluker.
“Hell yeah, if I’m back, yes,” he said. “I like running the ball. It’s the best part of being a lineman. You don’t want to be a West Coast [offense] and passing the ball 70 plays. You want to be balanced. ... I’d love to be part of that.”
It’s one of several offensive line decisions Gettleman will have to make this offseason.