Giants Trade LB Olivier Vernon to Browns for RG Kevin Zeitler
The “will he stay or will he go” saga for linebacker Olivier Vernon is officially over after a week’s worth of speculation. According to NFL insiders Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport, the New York Giants traded Vernon to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for right guard Kevin Zeitler on Friday.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 8, 2019
Additionally, the Giants are sending a fourth round pick (132nd overall) to Cleveland, who sends their fifth rounder in return (155th overall).
In terms of money, Vernon’s contract fully goes to the Brown, while New York will take on approximately $8 million in dead money, while saving $1.5 million in cap space. As for Zeitler, he carries an annual salary of $10 million. Yet, the Giants general manager Dave Gettleman could opt to redo his contract in order to free up some additional cap room.
Vernon has faced uncertainty heading into the new league year. While he is New York’s best pass rusher, his contract was just too hefty of a price. On top of that, Vernon has had issues staying healthy, most notably having numerous issues with his ankle.
Despite that, Vernon was the only defender on the team last season to post over 6.5 sacks. Yet, it was his $15.25 million in base salary that was the dealbreaker for Gettleman and Co., considering Vernon was a Jerry Reese signing.
Now, Vernon will join a Browns team with a very bright future. Cleveland already boasts former first overall pick Myles Garrett, who has wreaked havoc at the line of scrimmage, but has been lacking a partner in crime. The Browns had the opportunity to take Bradley Chubb in last year’s NFL Draft, but opted to draft cornerback Denzel Ward, who proved to be a solid selection.
A Vernon-Garrett pairing in Cleveland could be a phenomenal pairing that can help the once pained Browns franchise finally make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Zeitler a Solid Return
The Giants have been much maligned at the offensive line in recent years. However, Gettleman has prided himself in bringing in “hog-mollies,” as evidenced by the signing of Nate Solder and drafting guard Will Hernandez. However, that was only on the left side of the line. The right side still had significant voids.
Zeitler fills in greatly at the right guard position and is a proverbial iron-man, as he hasn’t missed a single game in the past four years. Yet, like Vernon, Zeilter was a signing from the previous regime, and general manager John Dorsey appears to be set on replacing him with Austin Corbett, his second round selection from last year.
So how good is Zeitler? Well, Pro Football Focus rated him as the sixth-best guard in the NFL last season. Additionally, Zeitler has been dubbed as the best pass-blocking guard in the league, where he averaged one pressure allowed every 58.0 pass-blocking snaps.
Kevin Zeitler led all guards this season – allowing a pressure just once on every 58.0 pass-blocking snaps. pic.twitter.com/eamqvflBDC
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 15, 2019
The Giants organization still believes that Manning can give the team some wins this upcoming season, and the addition of Zeitler can certainly help take pressure off of him.
So what does this mean for the Giants plans? The o-line is 4/5 complete with Zeitler, Hernandez, Solder, and center Jon Halapio. The only void left is at right tackle, which New York can likely address in free agency. That, in turn, would allow the Giants to address the defense through the draft, considering this year’s class is pass-rusher heavy.
The trade is a win-win for both parties. Cleveland has a formidable pass-rushing duo, while the Giants acquired an anchor in the form of Zeitler, who can help protect Manning (and possibly his successor) in 2019.
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