Kevin Zeitler has continued to serve as a reliable interior offensive lineman. Now on team No. 4, Zeitler picked up his first Pro Bowl nod during a 12-year career. The Ravens guard also wants to play at least one more season.
Although Zeitler is one of the NFL’s oldest active O-linemen, set to turn 34 next month, the Ravens are interested in bringing him back. GM Eric DeCosta said he and Zeitler have discussed another deal, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Zeitler played out his initial three-year Baltimore pact this season.
A late-career Steelers cameo from completing the AFC North sweep, Zeitler has been one of the Ravens’ most dependable cogs during the 2020s. Pro Football Focus has graded Zeitler as a top-15 guard in each of his three Baltimore seasons. In 2023, the advanced metrics website slotted him as the NFL’s second-best pass-protecting guard. Illustrating the inconsistencies in grading O-linemen, ESPN’s pass block win rate metric did not place Zeitler in the top 20. But the former Bengals, Browns and Giants blocker has been durable and a regular starter over the course of his 12-year career.
Zeitler scored big in free agency back in 2017, parlaying his fifth-year option Bengals season into a then-guard-record deal with the Browns (five years, $60MM). Changing GMs during Zeitler’s Cleveland tenure, the Browns included him as part of their Odell Beckham Jr. deal in 2019. The Giants used Zeitler as a two-season starter, and despite then-GM Dave Gettleman‘s push to bolster the team’s O-line, Big Blue released the trade pickup in 2021. Zeitler then signed a three-year, $22.5MM deal with the Ravens.
The former first-round pick expressed a desire for a Ravens extension last summer, but no new deal emerged. Zeitler started 15 more games with the Ravens, playing out the contract while missing only four contests in that three-season run. Zeitler has started 181 career games. Than number ranks in the top 20 all time; the Wisconsin alum is 29 starts ahead of Zack Martin among active guards.
With Ravens left guard John Simpson due for free agency as well, the Ravens face the prospect of losing both their guard starters. The team let contract-year breakout blocker Ben Powers depart last year, opting for Simpson at a lower cost. With Simpson playing out his deal and Tyler Linderbaum on a rookie pact that can be pushed to 2026 via the fifth-year option, Zeitler staying on a midlevel accord makes sense. He will be a more affordable free agent than Patrick Queen, who appears poised to test the market, and Justin Madubuike, who is likely to be franchise-tagged. Baltimore also has effective stopgap pass rushers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy out of contract.
This year’s guard market features some interesting first-time free agents. Jonah Jackson, Kevin Dotson, Robert Hunt, Damien Lewis, Jon Runyan Jr., and Ezra Cleveland are weeks away from hitting the market. Among guards to have held UFA status previously, Zeitler may lead the pack for value. Ex-Denver teammates Graham Glasgow and Dalton Risner are among the veteran options set to be available. The Ravens have until March 11 to keep Zeitler off the market.