Former Badgers linemen Wagner, Zeitler make history in NFL free - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Former Badgers linemen Wagner, Zeitler make history in NFL free agency

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MADISON, Wis. – The NFL free agency signing period started on Thursday and it didn’t take long for a couple of former Badgers offensive linemen to make history. Rick Wagner and Kevin Zeitler, both three-year starters for UW who started on the same lines in 2010 and 2011, found new homes with lucrative deals that were officially announced on Friday.

Wagner, who started 37 games for UW and was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a senior, was drafted in the fifth round by the Baltimore Ravens in 2013. He started 45 games at right tackle for the Ravens over the last three seasons and was the highest-graded pass protecting right tackle in 2014 according to Pro Football Focus. Wagner signed a deal with the Detroit Lions that will reportedly pay him more than $9 million a year, making him the highest paid right tackle in the NFL.

Zeitler, a first-team All-American in 2011 who started 36 games for the Badgers, is joining another former Badger, 10-time Pro Bowler Joe Thomas, on the Cleveland Browns’ offensive line. Zeitler was a first-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012 and started 71 games at right guard over his five seasons in Cincinnati. Zeitler’s new deal with the Browns is reportedly five years for $60 million, making him the highest paid guard in the NFL.

All told, there are 26 former Badgers currently under NFL contracts (another three – Marcus Cromartie, Lance Kendricks and DeAndre Levy – played last season and are free agents). Of those 26, eight are offensive linemen. Wagner and Zeitler join former teammate Travis Frederick as the highest paid linemen at their position. Frederick, a three-time Pro Bowler at center, signed a six-year, $56.4 million contract extension with the Dallas Cowboys last summer.

Wagner, Zeitler and Frederick were all starters on the Badgers’ 2011 team that won the Big Ten title and played in the Rose Bowl. In all, a total of 17 players from that team are under NFL contracts (see list below), including six offensive linemen.

2011 Wisconsin Badgers in the NFL

·        Jared Abbrederis, WR (Lions)

·        Beau Allen, DL (Eagles)

·        Travis Frederick, OL (Cowboys)

·        Melvin Gordon, RB (Chargers)

·        Ryan Groy, OL (Bills)

·        Rob Havenstein, OL (Rams)

·        Darius Hillary, DB (Browns)

·        Tyler Marz, OL (Titans)

·        Brad Nortman, P (Jaguars)

·        Dezmen Southward, DB (Panthers)

·        Joel Stave, QB (Chiefs)

·        Austin Traylor, TE (Broncos)

·        Rick Wagner, OL (Lions)

·        Derek Watt, FB (Chargers)

·        James White, RB (Patriots)

·        Russell Wilson, QB (Seahawks)

·        Kevin Zeitler, OL (Browns)

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