Why The New York Giants Should Keep Kevin Zeitler

The Giants appear to be willing to move on from guard Kevin Zeitler, largely due to his hefty salary cap tag and the gradual decline in his game. But here's why they might be better off keeping him at a reduced rate if it can be worked out.
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Damned if they do, and damned if they don't.

That age-old saying would appear to be a perfect summary to describe the Giants' dilemma with veteran guard Kevin Zeitler. Zeitler is a durable, reliable, and solid offensive lineman whose only glaring "fault" is his $14.5 million cap hit in a year where anyone carrying an eight-figure cap hit better be at least under the age of 30 and more toward the prime of his career.

Zeitler, unfortunately, is neither, but that doesn't diminish the fact that he was one of the Giants' steadiest offensive linemen last season, even if he lost a little something off his power game from the past.

With the NFL thrust in its first off-season during a global pandemic and one that was significantly affected in terms of revenue that otherwise would have meant for a booming salary cap, the league is expected to have a cap floor between the $180-$183 million mark.

This means that teams will be forced into a significant roster purge in which talent that otherwise might not garner a whisper this off-season are suddenly faced with the prospect of either having to take a pay cut and be traded or be cut.

Zeitler falls into this category, at least if a report by CBS Sports Jason LaCanfora is to be believed. The Giants, who need to shed a lot of dead weight just to create room to have enough for a potential franchise tag ($19 million) for Leonard Williams, never mind other free agents, are expected to go on a massive roster cutting and restructuring binge.

But when it comes to Zeitler, should they be so quick to be looking to potentially purge the contract of one of the most steady offensive linemen from their books when their franchise quarterback is entering a critical "make or break" season ahead?

From a cost perspective, there is no way the Giants can afford to carry Zeitler's cap hit into 2021. None. And general manager Dave Gettleman has made it a priority to rebuild the offensive line with ascending, young talent, two words that don't quite describe Zeitler's game at this point in his career.

But in this case, might a restructure and "extension" be worth it just to ensure some veteran stability along that offensive line?

In the following table, I propose such a scenario in which the Giants lower Zeitler's cap figure to under $10 million through the use of voidable years:

This contract structure intends to allow the Giants to exit the deal as soon as after this season and still recognize a cap savings. And even if they were to hang on to Zeitler for 2022 (unlikely), his cap number wouldn't choke them moving forward, not with the cap expected to rise closer to "normal" next year.

With that said, the drawback is the $5.25 million in dead money that gets kicked down the road if the Giants were to part ways with Zeitler after this year. That number might not be easy to digest, not if the team does as is expected and designates Nate Solder as a post-June 1 transaction.

But what the Giants must weigh here is if it's worth it to them to make this kind of investment in an offensive line that needs to protect the guy they think is their long-term answer at quarterback, at least until a suitable replacement is ready to fill that right guard spot. 


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