Giants Trade Rumors: Kevin Zeitler Being Shopped; OL Owed $14.5M in 2021

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2021

New York Giants guard Kevin Zeitler (70) in action during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)
Terrance Williams/Associated Press

New York Giants guard Kevin Zeitler is being shopped on the trade market, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. 

Per that report, however, a trade is "not likely," with teams anticipating the Giants simply releasing the veteran to free themselves of his $12 million base salary

The Giants face something of a "damned if they do, damned if they don't" situation when it comes to Zeitler. Releasing him or trading him would provide them with some much-needed cap space, but it would also leave them without their best offensive lineman from a season ago and no truly viable replacements.

Ralph Vacchiano @RVacchianoSNY

Of course, trading Zeitler would leave Shane Lemieux and Will Hernandez as the Giants’ starting guards in 2021, unless they can find a bargain free agent among other teams’ cap cuts. That would be ... risky.

Pat Leonard @PLeonardNYDN

Zeitler, 31, a solid person/player, isn’t a long-term rebuild piece & is costly at current salary. $12 million salary/$14.5 million cap hit in 2021. This would save the Giants $12 mil next season. Stay tuned. https://t.co/y4hsDF4fBF

Ryan Dunleavy @rydunleavy

#Giants simply can’t go with Lemieux and Hernandez as starting guards in a make or break year for Daniel Jones. Can’t. Straight releasing Zeitler, their top OL, rather than an extension would be hard to rationalize https://t.co/GGrVszy9iC

It's fair to argue that Zeitler has declined in recent years, however. Ed Valentine of SB Nation laid out the argument:

"Zeitler is still a good player, though if you judge by Pro Football Focus data his play slipped considerably in 2020. Zeitler’s 65.9 PFF grade was the first time in his career he had been below 73.2. That was mostly due to a career-worst 68.7 pass-blocking grade, which is good but not not near the elite numbers Zeitler posted earlier in his career. His pass blocking grades the past three seasons—91.7, 75.0, 68.7—show a clear downward trend. So, too, do the number of pressures he has allowed. A career-best 11 in 2018, 22 in 2019 and a career-worst 28 allowed in 2020."

That declining play may not be as huge a deal were Zeitler under contract at a lower cap figure. But shaving $12 million off the books would be significant. 

That cap number will also make him very difficult to trade, leaving the Giants with a choice: Release him and take on a minimal $2.5 million dead cap hit, or keep him and make cuts to the roster elsewhere or contract restructures.

Connor Rogers @ConnorJRogers

Even on wrong side of 30, Zeitler would be a pretty big addition to the guard market https://t.co/d9cX2nDX8n

Other teams around the NFL aren't going to bail the Giants out, however. New York has a tough decision to make.