New York Giants: Kevin Zeitler lands in Baltimore following release

New York Giants, Kevin Zeitler

Free agency is underway, and New York Giants fans are already seeing familiar players leaving and joining other teams. In the case of Kevin Zeitler, he wasn’t due for a new contract but the team made the choice to let him walk anyway by releasing him due to salary cap concerns. While it looks like the Giants are restructuring Nate Solder’s deal, they weren’t able to come to the same terms with Zeitler and the guard is moving on to another team because of it.

That team will be the Baltimore Ravens, as we’re finding out now. Zeitler is the first signing Baltimore is making in free agency this year and it’s obvious why – with Lamar Jackson being one of the top QBs in the league, they need talent to protect him.

Zeitler was a starter in all but one game for the Giants after making the move from the Browns in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. During that time span, many considered him the best offensive lineman the Giants had. It still remains to be seen who the Giants intend to replace him with, as the in-house option Will Hernandez has largely fallen out of favor in the current system.

Allowing Zeitler to leave, however, will clear up cap space for the Giants and allow them to bring in other players at a time when that’s needed, especially in combination with other cap saving moves such as restructuring Nate Solder’s deal and letting Dalvin Tomlinson walk in free agency.

New York Giants: Kevin Zeitler says goodbye to New York following release

New York Giants, Kevin Zeitler

The New York Giants will have a different offensive line this season and one of the biggest changes will be that their top performer from last year is gone. That top performer, of course, is Kevin Zeitler. The Giants acquired him when they moved Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon to the Cleveland Browns, and Zeitler for the most part kept up his level of play that started with his previous team.

And he was one of the better members of the line during the time that he was with the Giants, starting almost every game since arriving in the trade. Now, however, the Giants have deemed his salary too much to keep on board amid their need to stay under the lowered salary cap. The Giants failed to renegotiate Zeitler’s contract and released the guard because of it, leaving them with a new need to address on the offensive line this season.

Zeitler has posted his goodbye to the Giants organization and the fans on Twitter already. The team that he’s saying goodbye to is one that he started 31 games for in two seasons, for two different head coaches.

The fans of course, will likely miss Zeitler’s presence on the line – after all, the Giants don’t have a clear replacement lined up just yet and it seems like the in-house option Will Hernandez has fallen off since his promising rookie season. The offensive line has been a problem for the Giants to figure out and now they have yet another spot on that line to reconsider.

However, at the end of the day, it just didn’t work out money wise. The Giants will save from cutting Zeitler, and he’ll head elsewhere and find the contract he’s looking for. That contract unfortunately won’t be with the Giants, and Zeitler apparently wasn’t willing to take less money to stay.

New York Giants release Kevin Zeitler, save $9.6 million in cap space

New York Giants, Kevin Zeitler

The New York Giants have made another move to clear cap space ahead of the new league year. Last week, the Giants made news when they cut Golden Tate and David Mayo to clear about $8.5 million in salary-cap space. They also restructured Levin Toilolo’s contract and cut Cody Core. Now, the Giants have made another, cutting starting right guard Kevin Zeitler in order to save $9.6 million in cap space.

The Giants were $8 million over the cap prior to this move. Placing the franchise tag on Leonard Williams put New York over the cap and they have been working hard to get back under before the deadline next week. Cutting Kevin Zeitler was a move that was expected as the Giants were reportedly shopping him last week.

Kevin Zeitler will now hit the open market as a 31-year-old offensive guard that started 31 of the Giants’ last 32 games. Zeitler was the Giants’ best offensive lineman over the past two years and he will not be easy to replace. Kevin Zeitler has recorded a 72.4 PFF Grade since 2019 (17th). Zeitler allowed only 28 pressures in 2020.

The Giants are now extremely young and inexperienced on the offensive line. The unit was one of the worst in the NFL last season and has now lost its best player as a cap casualty. New York will likely prioritize upgrading the offensive line this offseason to make up for the loss of Kevin Zeitler.

The extra money that the Giants saved by cutting Kevin Zeitler should help the team in its free agency efforts. The Giants are expected to pursue a top-tier offensive playmaker, but they also need money to retain Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams. Cutting Kevin Zeitler gives the Giants some breathing room ahead of the new league year which begins on March 17th.

New York Giants might find Zeitler replacement on open market

New York Giants, Kevin Zeitler

The New York Giants aren’t in a good position when it comes to Kevin Zeitler and his contract, but they may be helped by the free agent market this offseason. That’s because they aren’t the only team that’s figuring out what to do with a veteran lineman, and the availability of other players at the position might drive down the costs to bring in a veteran replacement if they do lose Zeitler this offseason.

Zeitler, who came in with the Odell Beckham trade and who has started almost every game for the Giants since then, was their top performing lineman last season but still isn’t quite good enough to justify his current contract – especially with the Giants being over the cap and needing to make changes before the season.

But it has also been reported that the Jaguars are in a similar situation with guard Andrew Norwell. And they aren’t the only team. The veteran guard market is getting more crowded as the offseason continues, as rumors have begun that the Chargers are trying to shop guard Trai Turner. With a market that might include players like Zeitler and Norwell, the Chargers may have trouble finding a partner and have to release Turner for nothing – just like the Giants might have to do with Zeitler.

As for an option that’s already on the market, the Raiders recently released Richie Incognito due to their salary cap but the experienced guard is still looking to play. It remains to be seen if these options are as good as Zeitler, for the Giants.

But thanks to the conditions of the free agent market right now, the Giants should be able to find someone to fill the spot without risking a bidding war that will drive the price high.

New York Giants: A creative way to deal with Kevin Zeitler’s massive cap hit

New York Giants, Kevin Zeitler

The New York Giants will have to get creative this off-season to make the necessary moves to improve their team, but one thing they can’t afford to do is hurt their offensive line. As arguably the weakest unit on the team, the OL ranked 32nd in the NFL in pass-blocking efficiency in 2020 and taking away their best player would only doom quarterback Daniel Jones even more.

According to CBS, the Giants are reportedly shopping RG Kevin Zeitler, who is their best OL, and his loss would significantly hurt Jones’ development. With DJ entering his third season, he has yet to experience ample time in the pocket and playmakers to utilize, which is extremely disappointing considering the Giants believe he’s capable of being their franchise quarterback.

When it comes to Zeitler, retaining him would include a $14.5 million cap hit in 2021, but cutting him would save the team $12.5 million to utilize. Theoretically, they could save the money and reallocate toward a lesser player to fill the RG position temporarily, but again, it would put their quarterback in harm’s way.

Zeitler is historically an above-average lineman but had a down year in 2020 due to inadequate support on both sides. Nick Gates was a first-year center and took a majority of the season to learn the ropes, and Cam Fleming was a journeyman right tackle that struggled consistently.

If the Giants do let Kevin walk, they will have to find an adequate supplement, which is easier said than done.

In 2020, PFF graded Zeitler as the 23rd best pass protector among 74 eligible guards. For context Shane Lemieux landed at 74, indicating him starting in 2021 could be a massive liability. Zeitler ranked 30th overall in run-blocking and was the Giants’ highest-rated lineman in every category. Considering his health and efficiency in pass-pro, letting him walk would cause more harm than good.

He was an even better lineman in 2019 when he graded out as the 6th best guard with a minimum of 400 snaps.

What can the New York Giants do to creatively extract value from Zeitler moving forward?

Since the Giants can’t afford to lose their best OL, the Giants can get creative with how they maneuver around his cap hit.

Extending him for two more years would allow financial officer Kevin Abrams to spread his cap hit over the next two seasons and lower his dead money. This would allow them to move on without consuming too much dead cap but also reducing his overall cap hit per season.

Ideally, they would tear up the final year of his contract and offer him a brand new deal that would have an escalating cap hit over the next three years with reduced dead money. A higher signing bonus would lower the cap hit tremendously in 2021 but would be spread out over the three seasons and would be guaranteed. In this scenario, they can wait for the NFL Cap to increase and trade Zeitler for draft capital in the future – which would essentially be buying a draft pick with his signing bonus since that money is still guaranteed by the Giants and will be on the hook until his contract expires.

The Giants will need to get creative here, but there are ways they can restructure his deal and ensure they don’t torch their OL in the process.

New York Giants: Potential draft replacements for Kevin Zeitler

new york giants, wyatt davis

The New York Giants are actively clearing cap space this week. They cut two veterans, Golden Tate and David Mayo, to clear over $8 million in cap space. But the Giants’ front office is not done yet. Now, there are reports that the Giants are looking to move on from guard Kevin Zeitler.

According to Jason La Canfora, the Giants are trying to move Kevin Zeitler and via trade due to his high salary cap hit. However, if they cannot find a trade partner, New York will likely release their starting right guard to free agency. Cutting/trading Zeitler would clear around $12 million in cap space for the Giants.

Of course, it is still possible for Zeitler to return to New York. The Giants could restructure or extend Kevin to clear cap space and keep him around simultaneously. But if the team truly does decide to move on from the 31-year-old veteran, they will need to find his replacement. There will be a number of free-agent offensive guards on the market this month, but looking ahead to the 2021 NFL Draft, there will also be a prime list of targets for the Giants to consider in April.

2021 NFL Draft offensive guards for the Giants to target

It would be difficult for the Giants to replace Kevin Zeitler’s consistency on their offensive line. He let up only 28 pressures in the 2020 season and was the Giants’ best offensive lineman. Yet, there are some intriguing prospects that could develop into quality starters for the Giants in this year’s draft.

Wyatt Davis

The top offensive guard for the Giants to target is a player that has drawn comparisons to Kevin Zeitler. Right guard Wyatt Davis out of Ohio State is unlikely to be there for the Giants in the second round. However, if he is there, New York would hit a home run by selecting him. Davis is a player the Giants could even consider trading up to select at the end of round one if they need to replace Zeitler.

Wyatt Davis totaled 865 pass-block snaps in his career at Ohio State. On those snaps, Davis allowed only 4 sacks and 1 quarterback hit (PFF). He is a phenomenal pass protector and a mauler in the run game. Davis could start instantly on the Giants’ offensive line.

Landon Dickerson

Joe Judge loves versatility. Alabama offensive lineman Landon Dickerson is as versatile as they come. While he might be listed as a center, Dickerson is an option for the Giants because he played multiple positions in college. Dickerson logged snaps at every position on the offensive line during his time at Alabama. He played the majority of his snaps at center, but did play over 200 snaps at right guard in 2019 and could make the transition back there in the pros.

Unfortunately, Landon Dickerson suffered a torn ACL last season. This does make him a risky selection early in the draft. But if he is able to recover from this injury, odds are, Dickerson will be a high-quality NFL offensive lineman.

Deonte Brown

Another Alabama product could be an intriguing option at offensive guard for the Giants in this year’s draft. Deonte Brown played primarily left guard for Alabama in 2020, but he did play over 500 snaps at right guard in 2019. Brown has demonstrated the ability to play on either side of the center.

Brown is the definition of a hog molly. He’s humungous at 6 feet 4 inches, 350 pounds. Deonte Brown is a brawler that wins with brute force. He never surrendered a sack in his three-year collegiate career and has plenty of power out of his stance. While he might not be the most refined prospect, Deonte Brown is a player the Giants could consider in the middle rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.

New York Giants trying to move Kevin Zeitler amid cap concerns

New York Giants, Kevin Zeitler

The New York Giants are wrestling with the salary cap this offseason and Kevin Zeitler may be the next one affected. The Giants already moved on from wide receiver Golden Tate, in large part due to the salary cap. But on their quest to work out their cap situation, it could be offensive guard Kevin Zeitler that moves on from the franchise next.

Instead of losing him for nothing with a cut, the Giants are looking to make a trade according to Jason La Canfora.

Unfortunately, the Giants don’t have very much trade leverage here. Everyone knows about their cap situation and how they have to get rid of players this offseason. Just like the Giants couldn’t get anything for Golden Tate and cut him for nothing, other teams anticipate the same thing happening with Zeitler. It seems like the league is willing to wait for that to happen and pick him up as a free agent.

Zeitler arrived in the Meadowlands in 2019 as part of the Odell Beckham trade. He started 15 games during that season and started all 16 games during the 2020 season. He was on the field for just about every snap during that time, so the Giants will have to figure something out at guard if they do move on from him.

With a salary of $12M for 2021, Zeitler is the second highest paid Giant this season if the Giants do end up keeping him. And that’s looking increasingly unlikely due to their need to mitigate cap problems right now.

New York Giants should see further offensive line improvements in 2021

New York Giants, Cleveland Browns

The New York Giants‘ offensive line was inconsistent in 2020. The Giants have had struggles across their offensive line for years now. It is a problem the Giants seemingly cannot fix. However, they are slowly working towards improving the offensive line, investing plenty of assets into the unit over the past two years.

The Giants traded for Kevin Zeitler in 2019 and signed Nate Solder to a huge contract in the 2018 free agency period. These are the two moves New York has made to acquire veteran talent on the offensive line. In 2020, though, the Giants shifted towards a more youthful approach on the offensive line.

New York spent the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on left tackle Andrew Thomas. They then doubled down at the position in the third round, selecting offensive tackle Matt Peart with pick number ninety-nine. But the Giants were not done there. They also spent a fifth-round pick on offensive guard Shane Lemieux in 2020.

These rookies saw plenty of playing time in the 2020 regular season. However, their performance was not always consistently good. However, there are reasons to believe that the Giants’ offensive line will improve further in 2021.

Continuity is key

The New York Giants’ offensive line severely lacked continuity and experience in 2020. Along with the rookies that saw extensive playing time, the Giants started second-year lineman Nick Gates at center, a position he had never played before. Gates was practically a rookie as well.

Taking that into consideration, the Giants had experienced players at only two of the five offensive line positions last season. Right guard Kevin Zeitler is an excellent, veteran player. Right tackle Cam Fleming is also an experienced veteran. However, the rest of the line was comprised of rookies and inexperienced players for the majority of the season.

The Giants also had no continuity along their offensive line. In terms of calling protections and passing off stunts, continuity and chemistry is crucial. No one on the Giants’ offensive line in 2020 lined up next to a teammate that they lined up next to in 2019.

Kevin Zeitler was placed between a brand new center and a brand new right tackle. The absence of Nate Solder left rookie Andrew Thomas as the Giants’ starting left tackle, sandwiching the left guard position between two newly acquired players.

The 2021 season will see the Giants’ offensive line play with far more chemistry and continuity than they did in 2020. There is not likely to be much overturn at all along New York’s offensive line. There could be a change made at the right tackle position, but the other four positions will likely be manned by the same players from last season. Additionally, the Giants made a change at the offensive line coach position midseason in 2020. Hopefully, in 2021, New York’s front line can enjoy the coaching of a singular coach. This second-year together could allow the Giants’ offensive line to grow and develop into a more continuous and consistent unit.

New York Giants: Lawrence Tynes proposes blockbuster deal for Deshaun Watson

The New York Giants are expected to make moves this offseason. It remains to be seen what those moves will be, but the team is on the brink of winning and some new additions could push them into a playoff campaign next year. And one of the biggest players that might be available on the market this offseason is Texans QB Deshaun Watson.

Obviously, the Giants already have a quarterback in Daniel Jones. The Giants have come out and said a number of times that Jones is their QB and that they plan on keeping him around for years to come. But words can be fleeting, and the staff also reaffirmed that Eli Manning would be the starting quarterback for weeks, before benching him in favor of Jones. Could they do a similar thing and make a surprise change at the position despite supporting Jones publicly?

Lawrence Tynes proposes a trade

Super Bowl winning kicker Lawrence Tynes has an interesting take on the idea. He proposed a trade where the Giants would give up a lot, but could get their quarterback of the future.

The Giants would have to give up Jones, plus starters Kevin Zeitler and Evan Engram. It’s a steep price to pay, but Engram has often left fans wanting for more performance wise and Zeitler was involved in trade rumors already earlier last season. In fact, Engram might be the largest one reason why the Giants aren’t in the playoffs right now after his crucial drop against the Eagles cost the team an extra win. Some would argue the Giants should move on from him now while he isn’t injured and his stock is still somewhat high.

Perhaps more concerning, the Giants would have to give up a first round pick for next year as well as two third round picks. Giving up a first round pick in addition to two players is a high price, but may be worth it in the long run if the Giants can advance to the point where they no longer need a high draft pick each year to further a rebuild.

What would the Giants get in return?

It’s looking increasingly like Deshaun Watson is going to move from the Texans, but what would the Giants get with him if they did make a deal?

From the looks of things, they would have an immediate step up at quarterback. Watson last season threw for 33 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, a huge increase over the poor ratio of touchdowns to turnovers that Daniel Jones had. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl, and while the Texans were far from a winning team last season, there’s other major reasons for that than just their quarterback play and offense.

After the Texans went 4-12, star defensive end J.J. Watt went as far as to apologize to Watson for how the defense wasted one of his seasons.

From 2014 to 2020, the Texans were under the leadership of Bill O’Brien – he became infamous to Texans fans for bad leadership and the move to trade Watson’s top receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals for David Johnson and a pair of draft picks. That’s been called one of the worst trades ever, and it contributed further to Watson not being able to win in Houston.

Even under those circumstances, and other poor management decisions from the Texans, Watson had a successful season individually and would be a step up from what the Giants have now. It’s easy to imagine him leading the Giants to success when not surrounded with a dysfunctional organization and placed on an improving roster that nearly made the playoffs this year.

Should the Giants do the deal?

The Giants will likely have to give up a lot if they want to acquire Watson, but at some point, the team has to turn the corner and start winning. There’s multiple ways to turn the corner. Some teams draft big time players and other teams acquire them in free agency or in trades. But there’s only so many chances to do so, and the Giants might not have another chance for a while to acquire a quarterback of this caliber.

It’s not that the Giants need to immediately move on from Daniel Jones – but Jones sitting around the middle of the league statistically for years isn’t going to help the team reach new heights in the long run. A player like Watson, however, could.

They would have to give up a lot, yes. But any team looking to turn the corner with a big trade does. The Giants are going to start losing players to contracts and free agency anyway as Dave Gettleman’s rebuild drags on for more years. They may as well give up some talent preemptively and pick up the kind of player that there’s rarely a chance to get on the open market.

New York Giants: Sterling Shepard limited and Kevin Zeitler participates fully

New York Giants, Sterling Shepard

Neither team will be completely healthy going into the battle between the New York Giants and the Cincinnati Bengals, and it remains to be seen whether the Giants will have Sterling Shepard for that game or not. Both teams are missing their best player in this one – Saquon Barkley for the Giants and Joe Burrow for the Bengals. But those big name players aren’t the only ones that are injured in some way on either side.

Sterling Shepard is listed on the injury report as having a hip/toe injury and was limited in practice on Wednesday. He was joined on that injury report by Kevin Zeitler, with a concussion. But Zeitler doesn’t look like a risk to miss the game, as he participated fully in practice that day. James Bradberry also missed practice to deal with a family emergency and was encouraged by Joe Judge to take the time off.

According to the injury report, the Giants are expecting to see Bradberry back in practice on Friday.

Shepard has already missed time with injury this season but has appeared in the past four games. During that stretch, he’s been targeted plenty and has had at least six catches each game. And notably, the Giants have won both of their last games with him in the offense.

Both Shepard and Zeitler are expected to play on Sunday despite their presence on the injury report, but it remains to be seen how fast Shepard will play while listed as dealing with multiple injuries.