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Marshal Yanda’s ‘glowing review’ helped lead Kevin Zeitler to the Ravens

Free agent guard Kevin Zeitler had many NFL teams trying to persuade him to join their team. Zeitler talks about getting a call from former Raven Marshal Yanda.

When Kevin Zeitler was listening to recruiting pitches during free agency, he got a sense for how different teams wanted to run their offense, how their coaches wanted to teach and where their franchises stood competitively.

But amid a handful of offers, one voice might’ve helped push the Ravens’ three-year, $22.5 million offer over the top: former All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda’s.

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After the New York Giants released Zeitler, their starting right guard and top offensive lineman, as a cost-cutting measure last week, the Ravens started to show interest. Yanda passed along a message to Zeitler’s agent: “Hey, reach out if you have questions.” So Zeitler did, calling up the longtime stalwart whom the Ravens never sufficiently replaced after his retirement last offseason.

“He gave a glowing review of the Ravens and how it’s great to be an O-lineman there,” Zeitler said during a virtual news conference Friday. “So it was a nice selling factor, hearing it from his point of view, and it was great.”

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There were other draws, of course. The Ravens run the ball more than any team in the NFL, and Zeitler is no different from Yanda or any other lineman currently in Baltimore. He likes pushing defenders backward.

“Every O-lineman you ask, ‘Hey, what do you want to do?’ They all want to be run blocking,” he said. “So that usually means you have the lead or you’re controlling the game or dominating up front. And the Ravens have established that that’s what they’re going to do, and I have a hard time believing they’re going to change that up now.”

He was also happy to be on Lamar Jackson’s team for once. In 2018, Jackson and the Ravens beat Zeitler and the Browns, in what was Zeitler’s final Browns game, to clinch a playoff berth. Last season, the Ravens easily handled the Giants in Baltimore. Zeitler also knows Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban from his days with the Cincinnati Bengals, and he got to know kicker Justin Tucker and defensive tackle Brandon Williams on CBS’ NFL talent show, “Most Valuable Performer.”

Ultimately, Zeitler said, every finalist had a “very compelling argument.” But he came to agree with Yanda: The Ravens would be a great fit.

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“When it came down to it, the teams I was choosing from, winning and being on a great, established team was definitely, no matter where I went, that was going to be part of it,” he said. “Baltimore was just, after talking to Coach [John Harbaugh], I really thought it fit what I do well with my run blocking and everything and whatnot. I just thought, for me and my family right now, Baltimore was the place to be.”

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