The Baltimore Ravens knew they left some needs on the table as they entered the 2020 NFL Draft, but they had plenty of draft capital with which to address it, and were able to come away with some serious talent at key positions, bolstering their linebackers, their skill positions, and their offensive and defensive lines.
Still, arguably the biggest remaining ‘hole’ was that which was created with the retirement of Marshal Yanda, a potential future Hall of Famer at right guard for the Ravens for a long time. Entering the week, their leading candidates to replace him were a trio of mid-round draft picks from the past two seasons.
Yesterday, they officially announced the signing of D.J. Fluker, a former first-round draft pick who has a good deal of playing experience. He has started 88 of 92 games over the course of his seven-year career, including all 14 games in which he played for the Seattle Seahawks in 2019.
The Seahawks released him shortly after the 2020 NFL Draft after having signed a number of linemen in free agency, including former Pittsburgh Steelers interior lineman B.J. Finney, and then drafting Damien Lewis out of LSU in the third round.
As they always do, Baltimore watched for veteran releases after the draft, so it’s hardly surprising that they swooped in and acquired veteran depth to bolster their offensive line, which already includes among the best pairs of starting tackles in the league. Of course, as of this year, teams were already allowed to sign unrestricted free agents the Monday after the draft, so they didn’t have to look for a veteran who was cut.
Fluker, however, is not going to be handed a starting job. He will be competing for it, alongside, among others, second-year Ben Powers, a fourth-round pick who grew up a Steelers fan. A pair of rookies, Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson, will also compete for that job, but one would think rookies are at a decided disadvantage this year.
Make no mistake, while he is a former first-round pick—even a top-15 pick—Fluker has never been an elite starter by any means. He has no Pro Bowls or All-Pros in his history, and there is a reason that he is on his fourth team.
But he can certainly come in and start, or be a bridge starter, for a team in need of plugging a hole, and who otherwise only has inexperienced options. This almost surely will be a low-value short-term deal, possibly even a one-year contract. But the signing does make them just a little bit stronger by insulating their incredibly valuable offensive line, which helped them set an NFL rushing record last season.