The pact can't be consummated until the new league year opens on March 13.
The swap helps the Giants shore up a porous offensive line with one of the best guards in the NFL. The Browns had been shopping Zeitler with 2018 second-round guard Austin Corbett in line to take over duties. Zeitler has a base salary of $10 million in 2019 and is under contract through 2021. New York also re-signed center Jon Halapio on Friday.
Big Blue was seeking to trade Vernon, who is due $15.25 million in base salary in 2019 and 2020, ahead of free agency. What looked to be an untradeable contract found a home with the cap-flush Browns.
Vernon spent three seasons in New York after signing a five-year, $85 million deal in 2016. Despite nagging injuries that caused him to miss nine games the past two seasons, Vernon can still be a force off the edge when healthy. The 28-year-old compiled seven sacks in 11 games in 2018. Pro Football Focus graded Vernon the No. 8 edge rusher in the NFL last season.
With a dearth of edge rushers hitting the open market this season, Cleveland GM John Dorsey elected to use his large swath of cap space to bring in a proven veteran to a rising young team.
The Giants did well to ship out a player ill-suited for their scheme under DC James Bettcher while upgrading a consistently struggling offensive line with Zeitler, who graded as PFF's top pass-blocking guard last season.
Jettisoning Vernon, however, leaves the Giants woefully thin up front on D, where Kareem Martin, Lorenzo Carter and Avery Moss currently sit as Big Blue's top edge defenders. Coupling Vernon's trade and safety Landon Collins' imminent departure, Big Blue's defense has a ton of holes to fill this offseason.