The Browns will give Kevin Zeitler a five-year, $60MM deal that includes $31.5MM guaranteed, a source tells ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). The deal will make Zeitler the highest-paid guard in NFL history.
Nearly every NFL front office was reportedly interested in Zeiter, who was the top free agent guard on the market and ranked as PFR’s No. 5 overall free agent. In addition to the Browns, the Colts, Jaguars, and Saints were all linked to Zeitler, who hasn’t missed a start in either of the past two seasons. With his new pact, Zeitler will eke past Kelechi Osemele as the league’s highest-paid interior offensive lineman.
Zeitler, 26, has made 71 starts at right guard since Cincinnati selected him in the first round of the 2012 draft, and in 2016 Zeitler graded as the league’s seventh-best guard, according to Pro Football Focus. Zeitler played the 2016 campaign under the terms of his fifth-year option which paid him $8.07MM, a figure that should have represented the bare minimum in contract negotiations.
Cleveland has revamped its offensive line today, adding Zeitler to play right guard, J.C. Tretter to man center, and extending left guard Joel Bitonio on a long-term deal. The Browns’ front five ranked near the bottom of the league in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate, so the club clearly needed to address the position group.
For Cincinnati, the loss of Zeitler represents the second major offensive line defection of the day, as left tackle Andrew Whitworth signed with the Rams this morning.
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