Fluker, the 11th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, played last year for the New York Giants under offensive-line coach Mike Solari, who was hired by the Seahawks this offseason.
The Seahawks made an addition to their oft-criticized offensive line Tuesday, agreeing to terms with free agent D.J. Fluker on a one-year contract, according to his agent, Deryk Gilmore, confirming earlier reports, an acquisition aimed squarely at improving Seattle’s running game. Fluker who is expected to compete for a starting role at right guard, will likely officially sign a contract with Seattle in the next day or two.
Fluker, the 11th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft (and yep, continuing the trend of Seattle adding first-rounders from that draft), played last year for the New York Giants under offensive-line coach Mike Solari, who was hired by the Seahawks this offseason. Fluker agreed to terms with the Seahawks after visiting Seattle last week though financial terms were not immediately available.
The 27-year-old played from 2013-16 with the San Diego Chargers and has played mostly right tackle and right guard and last year played mostly right guard in nine games and six starts for the Giants.
Gilmore said the plan is for Fluker to start out at right guard with the Seahawks.
“D.J. can play tackle or guard but I would think he is going to come in and play guard,” Gilmore said. “He’s an athlete and he can play on both sides but we would guess (he’ll start out on the right side).”
Listed at 6 feet 5 and 339 pounds, Fluker adds bulk to the Seahawks’ offensive line. The Seahawks appear aiming to get bigger up front this offseason with Solari expected to add more man-blocking and power schemes to the offense. Previous offensive-line coach Tom Cable focused more on zone blocking. Seattle was estimated to zone block 72 percent of the time in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus.
Gilmore said Fluker recently weighed in at 342, which would make him the biggest linemen on the Seahawks’ roster in terms of listed weights from last season when Germain Ifedi was the heaviest, at a listed 325.
Fluker played 432 snaps for the Giants last season and was rated 36th among guards in run-block success by Pro Football Focus and 78th in pass-blocking efficiency. PFF rated Fluker 24th of the top 27 free-agent guards available in pass-block efficiency, allowing two sacks in 258 pass-block snaps in 2017.
But Fluker is being brought in with the goal to help a Seattle rushing attack that has lagged the last two seasons — coach Pete Carroll said in his season-ending press conference that improving the running game would be an offseason priority.
“When you look at last year, the offensive line for the Giants, he was one of the key components to allow them to run the ball,’’ Gilmore said. “And in coming to Seattle, he’s going to allow them to come in and get back to the days when Seattle was a physical run force.’’
Fluker played in college at Alabama and started 59 games for the Chargers before being released last March. He signed a one-year deal with the Giants worth up to $3 million and played in nine games before being placed on Injured Reserve because of a toe injury. An NJ.com story in October noted that the Giants averaged 130 yards rushing in one three-game stretch when Fluker started, including 148 yards in a 23-10 win at Denver.
Fluker also started at right guard when the Seahawks beat the Giants 24-7 on Oct. 22, with the Seahawks holding the Giants to 46 yards rushing and 177 overall.
Gilmore said Fluker had other offers but chose the Seahawks for several reasons, including that Seattle showed immediate interest in Fluker when the free agent signing period began last Wednesday.
“We had a lot of interest, but clearly you look at Seattle and Russell Wilson and you look at his old offensive line coach from the Giants was there,’’ Gilmore said. “I think clearly Seattle is not 10 pieces away from winning. D.J. won three national championships at Alabama and his desire is to win.’’
Fluker becomes the the third player picked in the first round of the 2013 draft who is on Seattle’s roster and the second signed during this free-agency period, joining linebacker/rush end Barkevious Mingo, who was the sixth overall pick that year by the Cleveland Browns. Seattle’s other 2013 first-rounder on the roster is Dion Jordan (third overall, Miami Dolphins), but Seattle last year also had Luke Joeckel (second overall, Jacksonville Jaguars) and Sheldon Richardson (13th overall, New York Jets) on the roster, meaning the Seahawks have had five of the top 13 picks from that draft on their roster at some point in the last year.
If Fluker moves into the lineup at right guard that cold mean moving Ethan Pocic back to left guard. Pocic emerged as Seattle’s starting right guard at the end of the 2017 season and is one of four starters from the end of the 2017 season who could return. The only one no expected back is Joeckel, who started 11 games at left guard, and he thought all along had been that Seattle would sign a veteran to compete at that spot, with the addition of Fluker appearing to accomplish that goal.
Pocic started the five games at left guard last season that Joeckel missed due to arthroscopic knee surgery.
Seattle also returns Justin Britt at center, Duane Brown at left tackle and Germain Ifedi at right tackle. While Ifedi has also played guard — starting the 2016 season at right guard — Seattle’s plan for now appears to start out the 2018 season with Ifedi at right tackle where he will probably compete with George Fant, who was slated to be the left tackle last season before suffering an ACL injury in the preseason. Brown, though, is set at left tackle meaning Fant will likely give right tackle a shot, while also potentially being the swing backup tackle on gamedays.
Fluker is the fifth free agent to sign with the Seahawks since the new league year began last Wednesday, the others being Mingo, receiver Jaron Brown, safety Maurice Alexander and tight end Ed Dickson. Of those, Mingo, Brown, Dickson and Fluker were unrestricted free agents and count as part of the formula for determining compensatory picks for free-agent losses.
According to Nick Korte of OvertheCap.com, the Seahawks at the moment would have a net gain of one seventh-round pick in 2019 as compensation for their combined gains and losses in free agency — Seattle has lost Jimmy Graham, Paul Richardson, Sheldon Richardson and Matt Tobin. Richard Sherman and DeShawn Shead do not count because they were released and not unrestricted free agents.