Kevin Zeitler, the steadiest and most experienced piece of the Giants’ offensive line last season, was released by the team on Wednesday in a move that saves the team $12 million against the 2021 salary cap. The savings puts the Giants below the cap of $182.5 million, which was announced on Wednesday as well. When that figure was announced the Giants were just over $7 million over the threshold that must be met by March 17.
They could save a further $6 million if they part ways with another veteran lineman before the start of the league year. Nate Solder, who opted out from the 2020 season because of concerns over the pandemic, issued a statement on Tuesday saying "if I am offered another chance to play football, I’ll probably take it," a strange musing for someone technically under contract with the Giants. The Giants would probably welcome the 33-year-old Solder back, but at a price tag well below the $9.9 million base salary he is due to earn for 2021.
All of which likely makes an already young Giants offensive line even younger. On Tuesday, general manager Dave Gettleman said he had no problem with relying on such inexperienced talent.
"At some point in time you’ve got to let the young kids play," he said. "Listen, every player was a rookie at some point or a young player at some point. At some point in time, you have to have confidence in who’s on your club and you have to put him in there and let him play."
Zeitler turns 31 next week. In his two Giants seasons he started 31 games at right guard, including all 16 last year. The only game he missed was on Dec. 15, 2019, because of an ankle injury.
He came to the Giants in 2019 as part of a trade with the Browns for linebacker Olivier Vernon, a deal that eventually morphed to include Odell Beckham Jr. and Jabrill Peppers switching teams as well. Zeitler played his first five seasons with the Bengals.
The Giants have options on the roster to replace Zeitler with Will Hernandez and Shane Lemieux, both of whom started at various times at left guard in 2020. They also signed Jonotthon Harrison this offseason. Gettleman said he would have no issue starting two second-year players, Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart, at the tackle spots in 2021.