Hours before the start of the NFL’s legal tampering, a big-name free agent came off the board. After being cut last week by the New York Giants, Kevin Zeitler officially joined the Baltimore Ravens. Per Adam Schefter, the two parties agreed to a three-year, $22 million deal.
After losing Marshal Yanda to retirement before the 2020 season, the Ravens employed a revolving door at the right guard position. After allowing Lamar Jackson to be pressured on 35% of his dropbacks, Zeitler will be greeted in welcomed arms from Lamar, and will look to solidify the RG position. In 2020, Zeitler was arguably one of the better linemen on the Giants; it was indeed a surprise to see the Giants cut him.
Finishing the 2020 season with surrendering only two sacks and 4 QB pressures. Zeitler’s ability to pass protect will prove critical for Lamar Jackson’s development as a pocket passer.
The pocket’s added time should also allow Jackson to find a running lane and take off with his legs. Zeitler also looks to bring a scheme fit for the Ravens’ top rushing unit. Zeitler’s athleticism as a guard will be critical as the Ravens often utilize a gap-blocking scheme. Ultimately, look for Zeitler to provide consistency to the right guard position as the Ravens gear up for another playoff run.
Whenever you sign a player north of age 30, there is always some guaranteed risk, unless your name is Tom Brady of course. But the trend of the Ravens signing players to their third contract extensions continues.
It is concerning that Zeitler’s play is diminishing, as PFF graded him at 65.9, a career-low. While this still ranks in the top half of guards (32nd out of 80), it is certainly a trend to keep an eye on. Along with the fact that the Ravens guaranteed $16 million of his salary, this move could backfire if his play continues to decline. Just as their move with signing Earl Thomas and trading for Calais Campbell did.
While the guaranteed money is a bit high, the Ravens did an excellent job on the average per year of just over $7 million. This would place him near the top 15 in terms of salary among all guards. Which is certainly not an unreasonable price to pay for a high-quality player.
Factor in the fact that Zeitler has only missed 9 games out of his last 144, and overall experience (134 starts), the Ravens are off to a hot start in free agency. Overall this is an “A” grade level of signing.
His durability and experience will be instrumental to their offensive line, and will stabilize the position after losing Yanda. Combined with the fact that Orlando Brown appears to be taking his talents elsewhere, having a veteran RG will bode well in the event of having a new RT.
Even with his age, his scheme fit and price make this signing a slam dunk. This signing is another indicator that the Ravens are going all-in in surrounding Lamar with weapons across the board. This is just the beginning. Look for the Ravens to continue to be aggressive and turn their attention to finding WR1 for Lamar next.