Could the Giants move offensive guard Kevin Zeitler and/or offensive tackle Nate Solder prior to the 2021 season?
The Giants offensive line — a mostly young unit — improved over the course of the 2020 campaign. An important development, sure, especially when you take into consideration how Daniel Jones requires on-field assistance in order to grow.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still offensive line-related decisions to be made this offseason — there are ones involving the team’s top lineman and another veteran who hasn’t played since 2019.
The futures of both guard Kevin Zeitler and tackle Nate Solder in East Rutherford are currently unclear. The Giants could keep both; they could additionally cut both. But it’s interesting to ponder whether there’s any sort of trade market for either after multiple offensive linemen have already been moved prior to the 2021 free agency period. The Titans traded tackle and 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Wilson to the Dolphins while the Las Vegas Raiders sent tackle Trent Brown to New England.
If the Giants don’t see a future with Zeitler and/or Solder, it’s best to at least see if there are any potential suitors before just releasing them. However, is there any reason why a team would give up assets for either veteran?
Any market for Zeitler?
Zeitler would bring experience to any offensive line in this league and has proven to still have some left in the tank. Since he was sent to Big Blue prior to the 2019 season, Zeitler has been the Giants’ best offensive lineman and allowed just two sacks through 1,003 offensive snaps in 2020.
A potential playoff contender could trade for Zeitler and utilize him as a productive stopgap option at the guard position for 2021.
However, Zeitler is expensive — a $14.5 million cap hit in 2021 awaits anyone that trades for him and his contract. Not to mention, the significant cap hit is in the final year of his current deal and Zeitler is additionally on the wrong side of 30, entering his age-31 season in 2021.
The only two ways to decrease his 2021 cap hit would be to extend his contract and then restructure it or ask him to take a pay cut. The former method may require a team to continue paying him when he’s even older in 2022, while Zeitler may not approve of the latter route.
Any market for Solder?
There’s no sugar coating it, there aren’t many benefits to employing Solder right now, other than the fact he provides experience and could be a mentor to any young offensive tackles you already possess.
But the bottom line is this: he’s expensive, aging, hasn’t been talented, and hasn’t played in two years (Solder opted out of the 2020 season due to coronavirus concerns).
Solder has two years remaining on his current contract, seasons that will respectively incur $16.5 million and $18 million cap hits. This isn’t ideal, especially given Solder is entering his age-33 season and just allowed 11 sacks in 2019.
In a year in which the cap is down, it’s very much unclear if anyone would be willing to take on that type of contract while giving up assets for the veteran tackle.
The Giants have a better shot at a Zeitler trade than anything
Zeitler is younger, less expensive, and at the moment, more talented and useful than his offensive line counterpart, Solder. However, just because a Zeitler trade is more likely doesn’t mean it’ll happen, unless a team may be willing to extend him, restructure the contract, and make the 2021 cap hit not as expensive.
Regardless, a lot would need to occur for any team to give up assets for the Giants’ starting right guard. Big Blue should still do what it can to see if there’s any sort of market before cutting him though — parting ways with Zeitler would save the Giants $12 million in cap space, which could then be used to help retain defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson.