A New York Giants reunion for Kevin Zeitler is officially off the books.
Zeitler, 31, will look to solidifying the right guard spot in Baltimore, a position that has posed questions for the AFC contenders since perennial Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda retired last season. The Ravens opted not to address the position via free agency in 2020. Instead, the team opted to roll with in-house options and mid-round draft picks to fill the void.
Tyre Philips, Patrick Mekari and Ben Powers all started games at right guard this past season. The trio combined for an underwhelming overall Pro Football Focus grade of just 57.7. Mekari, a versatile player who has also played center during his young career, earned the best mark of the group, receiving a 66.9 overall grade.
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How Will the Giants Replace Zeitler?
Zeitler’s exit from East Rutherford was a widely expected one this offseason, yet that’s not to say it doesn’t sting. Strapped for cash and looking to free up cap space ahead of free agency, the former first-round pick enabled New York to save around $12 million with his release. With that said, the move leaves a glaring hole along the team’s starting unit.
Will Hernandez, who has also been floated as a cap casualty since losing his starting job to Shane Lemieux is the most obvious replacement to Zeitler on the roster. A former second-round pick, Hernandez has drawn 39 starts over his three seasons in New York, albeit all at left guard. His base salary checks in at just $2.1 million for 2021 and he’ll be only 26 years old by the time this season kicks off.
Another option would be Cam Fleming. An impending free agent, Fleming started all 16 games at right tackle for the Giants last season. However, with the return of Nate Solder and the presence of second-year man Matt Peart, the team could look to reunite with Fleming under the presumption they can push him down to guard.
Zeitler Thanks Giants in Twitter Send Off
Acquired in the joint Odell Beckham Jr./Olivier Vernon trade package, Zeitler had been a mainstay along the Giants’ offensive line, starting all but one game since his arrival in 2019. This past season, Zeitler joined the likes of center Nick Gates and the aforementioned Cam Fleming as the lone Giants offensive linemen to start all 16 games.
Zeitler ends his tenure with Big Blue, owning what was the second-longest active streak among Giants players with 18, (per the team’s official website). The leader in that category, Dalvin Tomlinson (64 consecutive starts), is an impending free agent and expected to draw extensive interest on the open market.
Following his release, Zeitler took to Twitter to say goodbye to the Giants family, voicing his affection for the time he spent in New York and excitement for the next chapter in his playing career.
“Thank you to the @Giants organization and the fans. I really enjoyed my two years in NYC,” Zeitler tweeted. “I’m excited to get to work with my next team. #onceagiant”
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