NY Giants rumors: Why Kevin Zeitler is prime salary cap casualty candidate

Kevin Zeitler #70 of the New York Giants (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Kevin Zeitler #70 of the New York Giants (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

Kevin Zeitler has been the NY Giants’ most consistent interior offensive linemen, perhaps their most dominant offensive lineman, period, his first two seasons, but there is a significant chance he has played his final game in a Giants uniform.

The NY Giants began trimming salary in an attempt to get under the NFL salary cap, which is expected to settle somewhere between $180 million and $183 million for the 2021 season, FanSided has learned, by releasing wide receiver Golden Tate and linebacker David Mayo Wednesday.

Even after those two moves, the NY Giants currently have just $10.08 million in cap space, according to Spotrac. Less than two weeks from free agency opening and the new league-year beginning, the NY Giants have the 21st most cap space in the league.

Despite his high-level consistency, there is a good chance that Zeitler will be the next to be shown the exit.

Zeitler is set to count $14.5 million against the cap this season, the third-highest cap hit on the Giants’ roster. However, if the NY Giants release Zeitler, the organization would free up $12 million in cap space while triggering a $2.5 million dead-money charge.

At age 31, Zeitler is not in the NY Giants’ long-term plans around a rebuilding offensive line. While releasing him would create a short-term void to be filled either via free agency or the NFL Draft, $12 million is a significant amount of spending flexibility for an organization with myriad needs on both sides of the ball.

There is a chance that the NY Giants could trade Zeitler, but most teams understand the bind that the Giants are in and it would seem unlikely that they would trade an asset for a player who could be free to sign elsewhere in a matter of days.

Whether he returns to New York, or signs elsewhere, it is evident that Zeitler remains a premier talent. Last season, Zeitler surrendered just 28 total pressures, and two sacks, while producing a 65.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.

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Matt Lombardo is the site expert for GMenHQ, and writes Between The Hash Marks each Wednesday for FanSided. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattLombardoNFL.