Kevin Zeitler: Respects Cincinnati, but business brought him to Cleveland

Thursday was shaping up like any other day for Kevin Zeitler, especially since he was continuing his routine of spring workouts in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin to prepare for his next NFL regular season.

Well, almost like any other. He decided to shave and get a haircut for the first time in a while, too.

He knew a press conference and some media obligations were coming, no doubt the most attention he would get since he was drafted in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012.

But even as multiple NFL teams were vying for his services in 2017 – and he knew he was about to land a massive free agent contract – it was better to just stay home and get that cut done himself.

And just as he was finishing it up, he got word: Cleveland. For a positional record of $60 million and $12 million annually per year, and $31.5 million guaranteed.

“I’m very excited. You put a lot of work in the first couple years in the league and every player wants to get to free agency,” he told The Enquirer prior to arriving in Cleveland. “I just have been lucky. I hit it at a good time, especially with the swing in the guard value. I’m honored that the Browns wanted me.”

Zeitler said he didn’t think Cleveland would be a player for his services at the outset of free agency, and New Orleans were the “surprise” team that jumped into the conversation late in the process. He was also connected to Jacksonville over the last week.

But it was about the total contract for Zeitler, and should similar offers come in from multiple teams, he would break the tie with personal preferences.

The Bengals never were in play, but it’s something he understands – and doesn’t hold against his original team.

“Every player when they’re drafted thinks they’ll be with their first team their whole career, and they want to be that,” he said. “But the business side sometimes doesn’t align for that. I respect the whole Brown family with how they run their organization. They have their blueprint and they stick to that and it’s worked out well for them. There’s no hard feelings or anything like that. It’s what they do and I’m sure they’ll be alright.”

Though he’s not one to spend a lot of time on social media, Zeitler couldn’t help but hear from Bengals fans about their desires for him to stay, though.

“It’s great. It felt good,” he said. “That means the fans thought I played well and that I was valuable. Obviously a big shout to the fans – they made the home games memorable and definitely gave us a home field advantage.”

“I couldn’t have asked for a better first five years in the league than to be in Cincinnati. I mean, I’m so thankful for the coaches, the owners taking a chance on me, picking me early in the draft and allowing me to just go in there and play and learn as I go. It was really great. I had great teammate and I think Cincinnati, they’re going to bounce back and be great again this year.”

Zeitler now heads upstate to try and help former Bengals offensive coordinator and current Browns head coach Hue Jackson turn that franchise around after posting a 1-15 record in 2016.

With Zeitler’s deal, an extension with left guard Joel Bitonio and a free agent contract with former Green Bay center J.C. Tretter, the Browns spent $124.25 million on the interior of its offensive line on Thursday. They also signed free agent receiver Kenny Britt to a $32.5 million contract and added more draft assets by acquiring Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler in a trade.

“Obviously it was nice that I got to work with Hue in the past in Cincinnati, knowing how he coaches and what his styles are,” Zeitler said. “He knows how to get things done. I’m excited to be a part of that and do whatever it takes to help the organization forward.”

Cincinnati Enquirer


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment