CINCINNATI — It's no secret that the Bengals need offensive line help. They need to find at least three new starting offensive linemen this offseason—two guards and one tackle.
Two veteran guards could be had on the trade market and may be released in the coming days according to Jason La Canfora.
"Hearing Giants trying to move G Kevin Zeitler and Jags trying to move G Andrew Norwell but not likely, given their salary," La Canfora tweeted. "Other teams anticipate them being released, when they would generate significant interest."
Both Zeitler and Norwell have Cincinnati ties and could bolster an offensive line that had the worst guard play in the NFL in 2020.
The Bengals picked Zeitler in the first-round (27th overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft. The soon to be 31-year-old spent five years in Cincinnati before signing with Cleveland in free agency following the 2016 season.
The Browns traded him to the Giants in 2018. Zeitler is entering the final year of his contract and would cost New York $14.5 million in cap space. If they can't trade him, then releasing him makes sense. He's still playing at an above average level, but the Giants would save $12 million in cap space if they moved on from the veteran.
The Jaguars are in a similar situation with guard Andrew Norwell. The 29-year-old is entering year four of a five-year, $66 million deal.
He's had his fair share of struggles in Jacksonville, but would still be an upgrade at guard in Cincinnati.
The Jaguars may find a taker, but it's hard to imagine a team being willing to take on the $31 million remaining on Norwell's contract. Jacksonville has plenty of cap space, but they could release the veteran and save $9 million in cap room ahead of free agency.
Norwell is a Cincinnati-native. He went to Anderson High School, before going to Ohio State.
He signed with Carolina after going undrafted in the 2014 NFL Draft. Norwell worked his way up the ranks and was named an All-Pro following the 2017 season.
He's a high-end pass blocker, younger than Zeitler and might be a better option for the Bengals if they were forced to choose between the two.
Cincinnati could also try to trade for either veteran. They have eight picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, including two seventh-round selections. Sending a late rounder to Jacksonville or New York in exchange for either veteran guard could make sense, but it would likely be contingent on the player restructuring his contract.
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Norwell and Zeitler join a long list of potential veteran players that could be cut before the new league year begins on March 17.
The salary cap won't be lower than $180 million and is expected to be somewhere in the $180-$185 million range.
The projected 2021 cap before the coronavirus pandemic was in the $210 million range, so teams are scrambling to get under the cap or free up more space to re-sign their veteran players in free agency.
Cincinnati will have anywhere from $40-45 million in cap space. They could free up even more room with a couple moves.
Adding a left guard like Norwell, who should have a chip on his shoulder after his stint in Jacksonville would be a no-brainer if he hits the free agent market. The same goes for Zeitler, who could be a plug-and-play starter at right guard.
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