Giants Release Veteran Offensive Starter

Giants release, re-sign Ryan Anderson

Getty New York Giants bring back Ryan Anderson.

With a declining salary cap ($182.5 million) and the decision to use the franchise tag on Leonard Williams for the second consecutive season ($19.3 million), the New York Giants are in a scramble to free cap space ahead of free agency.

The team took a major step in this direction on Wednesday when they announced the release of guard Kevin Zeitler. The move saves the Giants $12 million vs. the cap, with a $2.5 million cap penalty.

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Zeitler Leaves Behind Big Shoes to Fill

Zeitler, who turned 31 years old on Monday, was widely perceived as the Giants’ best offensive lineman. A key piece in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade (yes the Olivier Vernon/OBJ trade was combined into one), Zeitler has started all but one game for the team since arriving in East Rutherford back in 2019. His lone absence came two years ago in a Week 15 victory over the Miami Dolphins –– Eli Manning’s final career start, might we add.

In 2020, Zeitler was one of just three Giants offensive linemen to start all 16 games, joining center Nick Gates and right tackle Cam Fleming, the latter of which is an impending free agent. Zeitler’s 18 consecutive starts gives him Big Blue’s second-longest active starting streak behind Dalvin Tomlinson’s 64 (per the team’s official website) –– another player who may have already played his final game in a Giants uniform.

Removing Zeitler from Pro Football Focus’ second-worst graded offensive line unit in football a season ago will be a tough pill to swallow for New York. According to PFF, Zeitler was the team’s highest-graded blocker in each of his two seasons with the team. Zeitler’s grading did however take a sizeable step back in 2020, posting a career-low 65.9 overall mark. Far off from his 78.7 overall career average entering the season.


How Will Giants Replace Zeitler?

Interestingly enough, Zeitler’s release comes a day after Dave Gettleman received pushback for his claim that the Giants offensive line is “young.” NFL Network’s Kim Jones repeatedly fought back at this notion, highlighting the presence of Zeitler and offensive tackle Nate Solder as evidence.

The somewhat heated exchange can be seen below, via Bobby Skinner of Talkin’ Giants podcast:

So, it’s evident the Giants plan to go young up front, whether that’s due to preference or financial implications is up for debate. The most obvious player to replace Zeitler at guard is current Giant, Will Hernandez. The soon-to-be fourth-year pro has been floated as a fellow cap causality after losing his job to rookie Shane Lemieux last season. Yet, the former second-round pick is an experienced player (39 career starts) who, at 26 years old, could still theoretically grow into the player the Giants hoped he’d be when they drafted him.

The team could always look to the draft if they decide that Hernandez’s time in New York has run its course. The other option would be to address the position via free agency, that is of course if Dave Gettleman is willing to bite the bullet on his “young” offensive line take. Names such as Trai Turner, Andrew Norwell and Gabe Jackson are all serviceable veterans expected to be had for a reasonable price on the open market.

Another name to potentially keep an eye on is former Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long, who according to Macon Gunter of the Green Light Podcast, is eyeing an NFL comeback.

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