Big Blue parts ways with starting RG, helping to clear way for Leonard Williams deal
The New York Giants have confirmed that they are releasing veteran right guard Kevin Zeitler.
Big Blue View’s Ed Valentine previously noted that the Giants were trying to move on from the 31-year-old Zeitler to get out from under his $12 million 2021 base salary.
Now that’s become a reality as Zeitler has been released one week before NFL free agency begins.
The move potentially opens the door to negotiate a long-term deal with defensive lineman Leonard Williams. The Giants placed the franchise tag on Williams this week, using the tag as a placeholder for a long-term deal.
When the Giants used the tag on Williams, which cost them $19.4 million, they needed to clear roughly another $14 million in cap space to make it a possibility.
Zeitler’s release now clears a substantial chunk of that. The 2021 salary cap is $182.5 million and Wednesday’s move puts the Giants at $3.283 million under the cap, per Over The Cap.
Zeitler never been voted to a Pro Bowl or selected as an All-Pro. He is coming off his worst season, with his lowest Pro Football Focus grade and second-most pressures allowed in nine seasons.
Valentine noted that this combined to make it a difficult proposition for the Giants to restructure and extend Zeitler’s contract. That’s especially if they can replace him for a cheaper price tag, and all signs point to this possibility. The move could allow the giants use both Shane Lemieux and Will Hernandez, who shared left guard last season, to start.
Zeitler came to the Giants after being traded from the Cleveland Browns, along with a fifth-round draft choice, for linebacker Olivier Vernon and a fourth-round draft selection on March 13, 2019. He previously played five seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals and two for the Browns.
In 2020, Zeitler joined center Nick Gates and right tackle Cam Fleming among the five Giants who started all 16 games. Zeitler’s 18 consecutive starts gives him the Giants’ second-longest active streak, behind Dalvin Tomlinson’s 64.
Last year Zeitler was the Giants oldest starter. Had 33-year-old tackle Nate Solder not opted out of the season, that title would have belonged to Solder.