The Giants will send Olivier Vernon to the Browns for guard Kevin Zeitler, and the trade looks likely to work well for both sides.
The New York Giants have found a trade partner as they look to part with defensive end Olivier Vernon. According to Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, Vernon is headed to the Cleveland Browns for guard Kevin Zeitler. Draft picks are also attached to the deal, with a 2019 fifth-round pick headed to the Giants and 2019 fourth-round pick going to the Browns.
Vernon is due to make $15.5 million in each of the final two years of his contract. But the Browns entered the day Friday with over $77 million in cap space, and accounting for offloading a $5.2 million cap hit attached to Zeitler it’s a net increase of $10.3 million for Cleveland (h/t to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network).
The free agent market for edge rushers has been thinned by franchise tags, so getting Vernon makes sense for the Browns as they have plenty of cap space to take on his contract. Injuries have cost him nine games over the last two seasons, but he has delivered 13.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss over that span and Pro Football Focus was high on his work last season.
Emmanuel Ogbah had just 31 quarterback pressures last year. while Vernon was credited by PFC with 46 over 82 fewer pass-rushing snaps, so Cleveland has clearly upgraded.
Vernon was cast as an outside linebacker in New York’s 3-4 defense and was an effective player, but he’ll move back to being a defensive end for new Browns’ defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. Teamed with Myles Garrett, who is coming off a breakthrough season in 2018 (13.5 sacks), Cleveland has a formidable defensive end duo.
Zeitler is a clear upgrade for the Giants. He was Pro Football Focus’ No. 6-ranked guard last year, as he earned the highest pass blocking grade of any offensive lineman in the league. Zeitler allowed just 11 quarterback pressures all season, while last year’s primary right guards for the Giants (Jamon Brown and Patrick Omameh) combined to allow 39 pressures in 14 games.
As New York tries to get one more year out of Eli Manning, and likely groom his successor (Dwayne Haskins?) after drafting him No. 6 in April’s draft, upgrading the offensive line is necessary. When the Browns were rumored to shopping Zeitler, the opportunity to add a significant piece without a dip into free agency was clear for the Giants.
This trade was a win-win for the Browns and Giants. The only thing preventing a concrete ‘A’ grade for both is the relatively advanced age of both guys, with Zeitler turning 29 on Friday and Vernon set to turn 29 during next season.