BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots may be bringing back their entire starting offensive line next season, but that doesn’t mean Bill Belichick isn’t looking toward the future.
According to ESPN’s Jordan Ranaan on Twitter, the Patriots have shown “strong interest” in free-agent offensive lineman D.J. Fluker. Ranaan mentioned the Patriots’ interest as part of a report that Fluker was scheduled to visit the New York Giants.
Fluker, who turns 26 years old on March 13, played the first four seasons of his career with the San Diego Chargers, who drafted him 11th overall in 2013. Though he started his Chargers career as a tackle, Fluker moved to right guard in the past two seasons. He started all 16 games at that spot for the Chargers in 2016, earning a mediocre 63.7 grade from Pro Football Focus.
The Patriots may appear set on the offensive line for the 2017 season, especially now that line coach Dante Scarnecchia returned and restored some continuity to the group. But left tackle Nate Solder is on track to become an unrestricted free agent in the 2018 offseason and could be in line for a big payday, considering the money being thrown at offensive linemen this offseason. Free-agent tackles Matt Kalil and Russell Okung just signed long-term deals for well over $50 million.
Elsewhere, the Patriots appear to be happy with right guard Shaq Mason and left guard Joe Thuney, who are signed through 2018 and 2019, respectively. But they may not feel as good about who’s behind them at the guard position. Former fourth-round pick Tre’ Jackson has yet to pan out as he enters his third season, spending all of 2016 on the reserve/PUP list with a knee injury dating back to 2015.
At worst, Fluker would represent a depth piece on the offensive line and potential insurance in case they lose a starter due to injury or free agency down the road.