EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 30: New York Giants outside linebacker Olivier Vernon (54) during the National Football League game between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys on December 30, 2018 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The New York Giants have finally made a significant change to their roster for the upcoming season, shipping one of their largest cap hits out of town in exchange for a high ranked, experienced offensive lineman.

Linebacker Olivier Vernon, who would have cost up to $19.5 million to the Giants against the salary cap, will be sent to the Cleveland Browns in a deal that was widely reported Friday morning. Vernon was entering the fourth season of a five-year, $85 million contract he signed with Big Blue in 2016, a move made under former general manager Jerry Reese that has since been widely scrutinized. The Giants new regime, led by general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur, tried to make a move for a linebacker throughout last season but no deals were made. This deal, which cannot become official before March 13th, finally moves what would have been the third largest contract (behind only Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr.) from New York, freeing them to have more options in the free agency market.

On the flip side, Cleveland and head coach Freddie Kitchens receives a Pro Bowl-caliber defensive player to pair with young edge rushers like Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah on the Browns roster. This also serves as a significant upgrade in their thin linebacking corps, but also possibly means that free agent Ray-Ray Armstrong will be finding a new team this off-season. They will send Right Guard Kevin Zeitler in the deal, concluding his two-year stay with the Browns, which also means he will play for a team outside of Ohio for the first time in his eight-year career. Zeitler, who began his career with the Cincinnati Bengals, was ranked eighth among guards according to Pro Football Focus’ ratings last season. He will almost surely become a starter with the Giants and offer stability to a unit that has struggled to find consistency over the past three seasons. Zeitler has 103 games started and four playoff games in his repertoire, with only 23 penalties in that time. He is due $10 million against the cap this season, which is still one of the bigger contracts among guards around the NFL.

Last season, Vernon achieved seven sacks, one forced fumble, and 21 quarterback hits in 11 games in his first season in the linebacker position. In 105 career games, he has amassed 51.0 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and 319 combined tackles.

New York also sent a late fourth rounder – their 132nd round pick, to be exact – to Cleveland for one of their fifth rounders, the 155th pick. Both teams remain with 10 draft spots after this deal, but this could help them make more trades or deals possible before and leading into the draft in late April.

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