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Ryan Jensen
Chicago Bears

Should Bears Target Ryan Jensen In Free Agency?

  • Bryan Perez
  • February 15, 2022
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The 2022 NFL free agency window unofficially opens on March 14, when teams can begin negotiating contracts with players who can’t formally be signed until two days later, when free agency officially gets started on March 16. Usually, the most sought-after free agents agree to deals in the first 24 hours of the negotiating window. For the Chicago Bears, it’ll be a critical day in their effort to rebuild the offense around Justin Fields. One player who general manager Ryan Poles should have at or near the top of his wish list is Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen, who despite having an average season in 2021 is the kind of tough guy the Bears need in the middle of the offensive line. Jensen was ranked 14th among 39 centers who received a qualifying snap count by Pro Football Focus in 2021, and while he wasn’t an elite player for Tampa Bay last year, he’d be a marked upgrade from Sam Mustipher and the type of enforcer and culture changer Chicago’s offensive line needs. “It agitates me to see a quarterback get hit and be on the ground—and I watch the five guys and their body language,” Poles said earlier this month. “If I see my guy on the ground, I’m running over there, getting him up, making sure he’s clean, ready to go. I don’t know if I saw that enough in the tape that I watched, and that’s critical. And also to protect your guy. If you see something cheap, something dirty, you need to set the tone that that’s not gonna happen, because if you do let it happen once, it’s going to happen over and over and next thing you know, your quarterback is hurt. So that (nastiness) mentality is critical and is something we need to add.” There’s no doubt Jensen has that kind of nasty mentality, and there’s no way he’d let a defender get away with burying Fields into the ground. He’s been a bodyguard throughout his career, even as far back as 2018 when he was protecting Jameis Winston in Tampa. The Bears will have enough money under the salary cap to make a play for Jensen, whose contract is expected to be in the range of three years, $30 million, according to Spotrac. Chicago ranks 11th in available cap space entering free agency and while it’s possible Jensen’s market is stronger than what’s being predicted right now, he should remain among the team’s must-haves this March. Adding Jensen would allow the Bears to kick Mustipher to the bench and have him serve as a rotational reserve. That’s a big win. Plus, if Chicago invests a high 2022 NFL Draft pick on an interior lineman, having a well-traveled veteran like Jensen to assist in his learning curve is an even bigger victory. The status of soon-to-be free agent guard James Daniels will impact much of what the Bears do in free agency. If he leaves Chicago, players like Jensen and, perhaps, Brandon Scherff (although he’ll be a bit pricey) or Laken Tomlinson become near-necessities in order to field a quality offensive line in 2022. As a result, wide receiver may have to wait until the NFL draft. Jensen is just one of many options who will be available to the Bears in their quest to upgrade the protection around Fields this offseason, but it feels like he’s the one who checks all the boxes too. Chicago needs an attitude adjustment up front and Jensen’s the guy who can do it.

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Bryan Perez