With an offensive line that did not perform well enough in 2020, the only major move the New York Giants made was to downgrade, both resume- and cost-wise, by letting Kevin Zeitler go and signing Zach Fulton for about $11 million less.
Why did they do that, and what does Fulton bring to the table? Let’s take a closer look as we continue profiling the 90 players the Giants will bring to training camp this summer.
Age: 30 in September
Contract: One-year, $1.2125 million | Guaranteed: $137,500 | 2021 salary cap hit: $987,500
Career to date
When I look at Fulton’s career, I can’t help but think about Jerry, the one-time Giants offensive lineman. Jerry was an offensive lineman nobody seemed to love, or really want. Yet, whether it was the Miami Dolphins from 2010-13, the Giants from 2014-17, or the Cincinnati Bengals in a comeback 2019 season, he kept finding his way into starting lineups. Jerry played 132 NFL regular-season games, starting 106. Oh, and doing a perfectly adequate job for most of his career.
The Giants are the 29-year-old Fulton’s third NFL team, as he spent four years with the Kansas City Chiefs and three with the Houston Texans. Along the way he has played both guards and spent a season in Kansas City starting at center. He has played in 107 NFL games, starting 90.
Fulton had an atrocious 2020 season for Houston, surrendering a career-worst 11 sacks and 39 pressures. He has, though, generally been an adequate player. In four seasons prior to 2020, he had surrendered only a combined 10 sacks. In seven seasons, he has had only two seasons with an overall Pro Football Focus grade below 60.0, and the lowest of his career was 53.4 in 2019. As a pass blocker, he has scored above 70.0 in five seasons. As a run blocker, he has never achieved a grade above 68.9.
Parse the numbers any way you want, he has been good enough to find his way into NFL starting lineups for seven seasons.
The accepted wisdom is that Shane Lemieux and Will Hernandez will be the Giants’ starting guards in 2021. Neither, though, has ever really been a right guard. Fulton has five years of experience as a starter at that spot, covering thousands of NFL snaps.
Would it really be a shock if Fulton ends up earning the starting nod at that right guard spot?
Maybe not. Much like Jerry, he has managed to make that happen in each of his previous NFL stops — even if no one really wanted him to.