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The Browns have discussed moving on from former Bengals OL Kevin Zeitler

The Browns seem to be clearing house of the former regime’s big name acquisitions, and Zeitler could be next.

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

No adjective seems to describe Browns’ general manager John Dorsey better than bold. Cleveland looks like it is getting ready for one wild offseason after having their best season in recent memory.

The team looks to be on the rise after quarterback Baker Mayfield looked like the answer to Cleveland’s eternity-long search for a franchise quarterback. Cleveland also moved on from Hue Jackson as their head coach, and they followed up the season by hiring interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens as Jackson’s full-time replacement.

What is more interesting is the rate at which the Browns are parting ways with players who have ties to the Sashi Brown moneyball era. The team just released Jamie Collins, and they have also been rumored to be shopping running back Duke Johnson Jr.

One name Bengals fans will surely recognize is Kevin Zeiter, who has now also been rumored to possibly be on the move as well.

It is true that Dorsey has no ties to the Zeitler signing, and they already have a young player on their team in Austin Corbett who could be eyed as his replacement. Zeitler is set to have cap hit of $12.4 million for the 2019 season, which would be the third year of his five-year contract.

The Browns could create $5.2 million in cap space by trading him before June first. That move would also create $7.2 million in dead cap. The Browns currently have over $80 million in space, but it looks like they want out of Zeitler’s deal in one way, shape or form.

There would be a market even for Zeitler’s services, even with that contract attached to him. Teams are desperate for offensive line help, and he was Pro Football Focus’ sixth-ranked guard in 2018.

But why is Zeitler even in the news? The word going around is that he’s being discussed in a blockbuster trade with the Giants that would net the Browns with superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham.

If this is the sole reason why Zeitler is being discussed in trade talks, it would be shocking to see Cincinnati get involved. It would honestly be more shocking if the Browns actually moved Zeitler in the division. We did see the Bengals trade for Cordy Glenn last season, but it was really only at the cost of moving from nine spots back from the 12th overall selection in the draft.

The other reason it probably won’t happen though is the specifics of Zeitler’s contract. Glenn’s contract doesn’t have any dead cap tied to the team cutting or trading him in the final two years of his contract, which are the years he is entering now with the Bengals. That means the team could move on from Glenn without worrying about any repercussions. Not to mention that Glenn will still count for just under $10 million against the cap for the next two season. That is a huge discount when you look at the rest of the league.

Zeitler’s contract still has dead money tied to him in case the team moves on from him during the 2020 and 2021 seasons ($4.8 million in 2020 and $2.4 million in 2021). It doesn’t seem significant in the grand scheme of things, but the Bengals are very particular about avoiding dead money.

Zeitler will also have a $12.4 million cap hit for the final three years of his deal, which is currently the fourth-highest of any guard in the NFL. There’s a reason why Zeitler isn’t playing for Cincinnati anymore, and it’s because they never intended on paying him this much money.

It’s possible that Bengals fans won’t be seeing Zeitler twice a season anymore. It will be interesting to see if he does indeed land in New York, and if Beckham is the compensation they receive for dealing him away.