With the 2021 NFL League Year beginning on March 17th, the Ravens have already dipped their toes into free agency with the signing of guard Kevin Zeitler to a 3-year $22 million contract with $16 million guaranteed. Zeitler, who was a first round pick by the Bengals back in 2012, has also played for the Browns and most recently the Giants. Let’s take a look at Zeitler’s career up to this point and see how he fits into the Ravens’ depth chart.
In his first five seasons with the Bengals, the 6’4 315 lb guard only missed one start and was widely seen as the top lineman on the team. In 2017, Zeitler was signed by the Browns and was made the highest paid guard in the league at the time. His impressive play and lack of missed starts in Cincinnati proved he was worth the first round draft pick. However, Zeitler would later be dealt to the Giants in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade that shocked the NFL world. The Giants would then release him following the 2020 season.
In his 9 year career, Zeitler has committed only 28 penalties. In 134 games started, this not a bad number especially considering how common penalties are in a standard NFL game.
Zeitler has proven through his career that he is a solid, reliable starter any team can count on despite the actual roster strength. Having been with the Bengals, Browns, and Giants, Zeitler has not had an opportunity to block for a Super Bowl-caliber team. While Zeitler did make the playoffs in his first 4 seasons with the Bengals, the level of talent around him has gone downhill since then with the 0-16 Browns and the current lack-luster Giants. Hopefully with the Ravens, Zeitler will have the opportunity to win his first playoff game.
This is the real question Ravens fans are asking though—how will Zeitler fit into this Ravens team? Assuming Zeitler performs as he has in years prior, he will definitely be starting at right guard come September. With Ronnie Stanley at left tackle, Bradley Bozeman at left guard, Patrick Mekari at center, Kevin Zeitler at right guard, and a right tackle position that may be held down by Orlando Brown Jr. if he remains in Baltimore, the offensive line just received a sizeable boost.
Following the retirement of Marshall Yanda after the 2019 season, right guard was replaced with streaky performances by D.J. Fluker, Tyre Phillips, and Ben Powers. However, with a stable starter in Zeitler, the Ravens can now focus on the Orlando Brown situation and right tackle. If Brown is traded or released, we would likely see a mix of Fluker and Phillips at right tackle depending on who stands out in training camp. After last season, I saw much more promise in Phillips despite Fluker’s experience.
The signing of Zeitler dampens the need to draft a top prospect at offensive line. The Ravens can now focus on drafting a high round outside linebacker or wide receiver and maybe acquire an offensive tackle in the mid to low rounds depending on how the Orlando Brown situation unfolds. Overall, Ravens fans should be in good spirits with the signing of reliable right guard, Kevin Zeitler.