NFL Rumors: Olivier Vernon Traded to Browns from Giants for Kevin Zeitler

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 8, 2019

New York Giants linebacker Olivier Vernon (54) in action against the Washington Redskins during an NFL football game on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, in East Rutherford, N.J. (Brad Penner/AP Images for Panini)
Brad Penner/Associated Press

New York Giants linebacker Olivier Vernon was reportedly traded to the Cleveland Browns on Friday in exchange for offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler.

Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network first reported the deal. The teams also made a minor swap of 2019 draft picks with the Browns getting selection No. 132 (Round 4) while sending selection No. 155 (Round 5) to the Giants to complete the trade, per Garafolo.

Vernon, who turns 29 years old in October, signed a five-year, $85 million deal with the Giants in 2016. He's accrued 22 sacks over three seasons in New York, including seven last season.

The seven-year veteran, who began his career with the Miami Dolphins, missed nine games over the past two seasons due to ankle injuries but none prior to 2017. He's accrued 51.5 career sacks and was named a second-team All-Pro in 2016, when the 11-5 Giants finished No. 2 in scoring defense.

The bottom has fallen out on the Giants since then, as the team went 3-13 in 2017. General manager Jerry Reese and head coach Ben McAdoo were relieved of their duties before the season, and new GM Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur took over. New York went 5-11 last year.

New York is in the midst of a multiyear rebuild, which involves remaking the defense and looking for a new franchise quarterback to take over for 38-year-old Eli Manning. The Giants are clearly going in a different direction, however, and have moved on from numerous defensive players drafted or signed by the old regime.

It's not Vernon's fault that the Giants' fortunes have plummeted; he's done well. However, he was also the fifth-highest-paid defensive player in the league last year, per Spotrac, and arguably hasn't performed to that standard.

Vernon can be an asset for Cleveland, though. His last full season resulted in an All-Pro bid, and that campaign followed a career-high 36 quarterback hits in 2015.

As for the Giants, expect second-year linebacker Lorenzo Carter to receive more snaps post-Vernon trade. The promising third-round pick out of Georgia amassed 43 tackles and four sacks last season.

Meanwhile, Zeitler started all 32 of the Browns' games at right guard over the past two seasons after signing a five-year, $60 million contract in March 2017.

Pro Football Focus graded him as the league's sixth-best guard in 2018, making him a massive addition to New York's offensive line for 2019 and beyond.

Austin Corbett, a second-round pick in 2018, will likely receive the first chance to fill the void up front for Cleveland.  

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