CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns stole from a division and intrastate rival in an effort to turn it’s weak offensive line from 2016 into a strength for 2017.
Cleveland nabbed their top free agent target in Bengals guard Kevin Zeitler on the first day of free agency Thursday.
Zeitler, 27, received a 5-year deal worth a reported $60 million, including $31.5 million in guarantees.
“I think Kevin is one of the premier right guards in football,” Browns head coach Hue Jackson said. “I’ve spent time with him before in Cincinnati. I believe he’s going to be a really good football player for us at a position of need, and I think he’ll do a great job.”
Earlier in the day the Browns extended guard Joel Bitonio for 5 years and $51.2 million with $23.7 million guaranteed – that’s $111.2 million with $55.2 million guaranteed committed to their guards alone.
Zeitler, who was the only Bengal to play every offensive snap this past season, was selected in the first round of the 2012 Draft out of Wisconsin. He has appeared in 72 games with 71 starts, all at right guard.
Zeitler isn’t the only Bengals lineman to bolt Thursday. Cincinnati lost left tackle Andrew Whitworth to the Rams after he agreed to a 3-year deal worth $36 million with $15 million guaranteed to move to Los Angeles.
Cleveland also added Packers center JC Tretter to complete the overhaul of an offensive line that was ravaged by injuries and gave up a league-worst 66 sacks in 2016.
Tretter, a 2013 fourth-round pick by the Packers, has appeared in 31 games with 10 starts. He has played center, left guard, left tackle and right tackle during his career, but all of his regular season starts have come at center. He started the first 7 games last season for Green Bay before a knee injury ended his season.
“J.C. is a very athletic center who played in Green Bay and did a good job for them,” Jackson said. “He had a little injury history, but comes here healthy and ready to go. We’re happy to have him.”
With the additions of Zeitler and Tretter, the revamped offensive line looks like this: LT Joe Thomas, LG Joel Bitonio, C JC Tretter, RG Kevin Zeitler and RT will be a competition between Cameron Erving, Shon Coleman, Austin Pasztor and Spencer Drango.
Cleveland was also awarded center Marcus Martin off of waivers today from San Francisco. He has appeared in 26 games with 24 starts the past 3 seasons for the 49ers.