Before the Giants and Browns struck the trade of the offseason with WR Odell Beckham Jr. heading to Cleveland, they made another deal where DE Olivier Vernon was on his way as well. In that deal, the Giants got G Kevin Zeitler in return, a right guard that would be plugged right into their offensive line next season.
Zeitler didn’t think he would be making the move, though. There was some speculation that the Browns had him on the trade market, but after signing a five-year, $60 million deal back in 2017 with Cleveland, he thought he would be there for the long haul.
Instead, he saw his phone blow up during a workout, and the shock set in.
“Very surprised,” Zeitler told Lance Medow and David Diehl on SiriusXM’s “The Red Zone.” “I mean, I guess in the NFL, you never know what’s going to happen. But I was in the middle of a lift and for some reason I decided to check my phone and I saw on Instagram about a million people say, ‘Good luck in New York.’ So I ran out of the building and we started calling people and it’s quite a shock for me and the family. But it’s all good. We’re excited. It’s going to be a fun, new adventure and things are going great.”
Zeitler understands the business of the league, which is why he’s embracing this new opportunity with Big Blue. Once he settled down and took a step back to think, his immediate thought was being able to create holes for one of the emerging stars in the league — RB Saquon Barkley.
“I mean, obviously, the first thought that popped in my head is like, ‘All right, we got Saquon!’,” Zeitler admitted. “I know he’s a heck of a player so that can only make life more fun for me.”
A couple Giants were also quick to welcome Zeitler to his new squad, including team captain QB Eli Manning.
“Right after I got traded, Eli Manning reached out, so did Nate Solder,” he said. “Both sound like great guys that are in it, ready to work and whatever I can do to help, it’ll be great.”
The Giants are still searching for a fortified offensive line that can be consistent in front of Manning — and whoever they bring in to be his successor in the future. Zeitler, who was Pro Football Focus’ top-rated guard in pass blocking last season, is a major upgrade to a line that saw rookie G Will Hernandez and veteran LT Nate Solder added in 2018.
But does the constant switches on the line hurt the chemistry of the unit at the end of the day? The Giants have tried multiple setups in recent years, but Zeitler doesn’t mind the changes. He’s experienced with the Browns, which is why he believes he’ll fit right in when the group gets together in preseason.
“I almost think it actually just benefits me all the more,” Zeitler explained. “There’s so many different types of players out there, different skill sets, different things they see. So I’ve got a great ability to work with them all, so I know the things that I might have to do a little different or things I might ahve to say more, so that’s all going to take care of itself.”