The Ravens have agreed to terms with veteran free agent guard Kevin Zeitler on a three-year deal, addressing one of the team’s top offseason needs just before free agency was set to begin.
According to NFL Network, the deal is worth $22 million, with $16 million guaranteed.
NFL teams are officially allowed to begin negotiating with pending free agents as of 12 noon on March 15, and deals can be finalized after 4 p.m. on March 17. But since Zeitler was released by the New York Giants last week in a cap-savings move, he was immediately available to sign elsewhere. Since he had been released, signing Zeitler will not count in the compensatory-pick equation, another factor that made his availability attractive to the Ravens.
Zeitler, who turned 31 last week, was drafted in the first round (No. 27 overall) by the Cincinnati Bengals out of Wisconsin in 2012. He then signed a five-year, $60 million free-agent deal with the Cleveland Browns in 2017, and two years later was traded to the Giants in the deal that sent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns.
Zeitler (6-foot-4, 315 pounds) has played right guard throughout his career and has missed just one game in the past six seasons. He was ranked 32nd among guards this past season by Pro Football Focus.
Zeitler immediately upgrades an interior offensive line that has been considered one of the Ravens’ top offseason priorities. The Ravens used three different starters at right guard last year after the retirement of eight-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda. Rookie Tyre Phillips won the job in training camp and started six of the first seven games, and Patrick Mekari and Ben Powers also started games at the position.
Led by quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Ravens ranked No. 1 in the league in rushing for the second straight year, but they ranked last in passing offense. After the season, when asked about improving the team’s passing game, general manager Eric DeCosta identified better pass protection as one of the keys. The Ravens’ interior line in particular struggled in a 17-3 playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills.
With the signing of Zeitler, edge rusher, center and wide receiver top the list of remaining roster needs. The Ravens are expected to lose both Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue as free agents after they declined to place the franchise tag on either outside linebacker, and the Ravens have no established returning starter at center.
Photo Credit: Giants.com