Bengals will have opportunities with guards expected to be released

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 22: (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 22: (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) /

Upgrading the offensive line is a focus for the Bengals during the 2021 offseason. Guards, Kevin Zeitler of the New York Giants and Andrew Norwell of the Jacksonville Jaguars as reported by Jason LaCanfora of CBS and the Los Angeles Chargers Trai Turner according to Adam Shefter of ESPN are expected to be released soon.

Norwell, Turner and Zeitler are expected to be salary cap hits from their rebuilding teams. In a similar position, the Bengals would be able to sign one of the three at a much cheaper salary than their original teams. Cincinnati is often linked to free-agent guard Joe Thuney who is a native of Centerville, Ohio.

With numerous teams needing help on the interior of the offensive line, expect Norwell, Turner and Zeitler to be highly sought after once they are freed from their original teams. Working in their favor is that any teams that the free agent OL sign with would not be subjected to compensatory NFL Draft picks.

Zeitler is the only one of the four mentioned players above who has passed his 30th birthday. Originally a first-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012 out of Wisconsin, Zeitler will turn 31 on Monday. Zeitler played five seasons with the Bengals. In 2012, Zeitler allowed only four sacks starting all 16 games and being named All-Rookie.

Zeitler signed a five-year $60 million contract with the Cleveland Browns during the 2017 offseason. After playing just two seasons in Cleveland, Zeitler was part of the trade that sent Jabrill Peppers and first and third-round NFL Draft picks to the Giants for Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon.

The 2021 season would be the last of the five-year contract that Zeitler originally signed with Cleveland. Zeitler would count $14.5 million against the cap in 2021. If the Giants release or trade Zeitler they can save $12 million according to CBS sports. Zeitler started 71 of the 72 games he played in five years in Cincinnati.

Norwell is a Cincinnati native and alum of Anderson High School and Ohio State. Originally an undrafted free agent, Norwell spent the first four years of his NFL career with the Carolina Panthers. Norwell signed a five-year, $66.5 million contract with Jacksonville during the 2018 offseason.

Jacksonville would take a $15 million cap hit if they keep Norwell. If Jacksonville releases or trades Norwell before June 1 they would save $9 million. By releasing him after June 1, Jacksonville would save $12 million. A lot of the discussion about signing Thuney centers on bringing him home. That would ring more true for Norwell.

Turner was a third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers and part of the same rookie class with Norwell. Originally a third-round pick out of LSU, Turner has one year and $11 million left on his contract. The Chargers acquired Turner from Carolina for offensive tackle Russell Okung last year. Turner’s contract in not guaranteed.

Bengals perfect free agent is WR Will Fuller per Pro Football Focus. dark. Next

NFL free agency begins on March 17 at 4 PM ET. If the teams in question release any of the three aforementioned players before then it will provide the franchises with a chance to know where they stand entering the offseason. Expect the Bengals to be active, especially on the offensive line.