The Ravens have addressed another need by upgrading the center position through a trade for Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Jeremy Zuttah.
The deal was announced Sunday as Baltimore will send their 2015 fifth-round draft pick to complete the deal, pending a physical.
“We said at the beginning of the offseason that we would be adding quality players to our line and Jeremy fits that description,” Newsome said in a team statement. “We are getting a player who has started at both center and guard, and played well at each position. We’re excited to have him as a Raven and believe he can play a significant role for us.”
Zuttah has played both center and guard in his six-year career but is expected to become the Ravens’ new starting center after 2012 fourth-round pick Gino Gradkowski struggled in his first year as the replacement to the retired Matt Birk. The Buccaneers had been rumored to be shopping Zuttah as they rework their offensive line under new head coach Lovie Smith and signed free-agent center Evan Dietrich-Smith earlier this month.
He has started 30 games at center, 41 at left guard, and five at right guard but made 15 of his 16 starts at center last season. According to Pro Football Focus, Zuttah was the league’s 22nd-ranked center while Gradkowski was rated 35th in 2013. The Ravens are expected to award the 6-foot-4, 308-pound Zuttah with a long-term deal after he was originally signed through the 2015 season in Tampa Bay and was set to carry a $4.5 million cap number — all in base salary — in 2014.
The 27-year-old was a third-round selection out of Rutgers in the 2008 draft and has started 76 of 90 games in his NFL career. He was a college teammate of Ravens running back Ray Rice.
With the acquisition of Zuttah, the Ravens now have four of their five projected offensive line spots set for 2014 with only left guard or right tackle remaining as a question mark. Third-year lineman Kelechi Osemele is expected to man one of those spots as he returns from season-ending back surgery.
The Ravens have now used three draft picks in trying to find the heir apparent to Birk as they also dealt a seventh-round pick to Indianapolis for A.Q. Shipley in addition to spending a 2012 selection on Gradkowski and trading a 2015 pick for Zuttah. Baltimore also used a 2013 sixth-round pick on Colorado State-Pueblo product Ryan Jensen, who is regarded as an intriguing interior-line project to monitor in the preseason after he was injured for a large portion of his rookie year.