A deal has yet to be reached between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen, who is set to become a free agent next week. Tampa Bay signed Jensen as a free agent from the Baltimore Ravens back in 2018 and he’s started every game for them since. Add in a Super Bowl championship snapping to the greatest quarterback of all time and the subsequent Pro Bowl nod he garnered this past year and you have a bonafide case to call Jensen one of, if not the best, centers in the entire NFL.
Well now, he wants to be paid like it. He’s set to enter free agency again next week and with limited cap space, the Buccaneers could very well be forced to let him walk.
He was the anchor and leader for an offensive line that boasted the least amount of sacks allowed in 2021 while simultaneously allowing for a bolstered Tampa Bay run game in which the Buccaneers recorded nine games of more than 100 yards rushing (including the postseason). Jensen’s infamous ‘nasty’ streak, coupled with a quarterback who was quick to get rid of the ball, set the tone for an aggressive unit that was able to attack more often than just sit back in their pass sets and block.
Jensen has also maintained his nasty streak while cutting down on penalties throughout the last few seasons. Though when it comes to protecting his quarterback, I’ll take most of those over the alternative. That’s by and large what he’s most known for—he will go to war for his quarterback if you so much as look at him the wrong way. And if you thought his hair was the only thing fiery about him, you’d find out pretty quickly that permeates his entire on-field personality.
Jensen is a small-school product, coming out of Colorado State-Pueblo before being drafted by the Ravens in 2013. He wouldn’t see significant playing time in Baltimore until his last season in 2017, where he started all 16 games for the Ravens and earned his next free-agent contract, proving himself every step of the way.
Now that he’s on the other side of any sort of ‘prove-it’ sentiment, here are three teams that would be lucky to have him.
Remember that whole ‘fiercely protecting the quarterback’ thing I just talked about? Well boy, could Joe Burrow use it. Burrow suffered NINE sacks in the Bengals’ divisional round matchup against the Tennessee Titans and still came out the other side relatively unscathed somehow. It wouldn’t be for long after then suffering seven sacks at the hands of Aaron Donald, Von Miller, and the rest of the Los Angeles Rams defense in the Super Bowl. Cincinnati suffered an even worse fate, as a result.
The Bengals allowed a 9.91% sack rate, which was second to only the Chicago Bears for the worst in the league throughout the 2021 season. This was coming off a torn ACL that kept Burrow out the latter half of the 2020 season. Like, guys. Be careful with your shiny franchise QB, please.
That’s where Jensen comes in. The Bengals have Trey Hopkins but it’s not hard to see Jensen as a significant upgrade. You could slide Hopkins back to guard, even—having a domino effect on the whole line. That’s what Jensen’s attitude would do, too. He’s a tone-setter and Cincinnati desperately needs that adjustment if they have any hope of preserving Burrow’s career and reaching another Super Bowl any time soon.
I’m tempted to just leave this tweet here and be done:
But alas, there is also good reason for the Ravens to want Jensen back. It’s a place Jensen is readily familiar with given that he spent the first four years of his NFL career there. The Ravens’ current center, Bradley Bozeman, is set to become a free agent, so with his likely departure, that makes room for a heartwarming homecoming.
He’d also add some stability to a line that was marred by injury last season. It’d be a different experience for Jensen, blocking for a mobile quarterback like Lamar Jackson, but quite frankly, that should be a selling point. There’s been reported interest from Baltimore and if Jimmy’s Seafood isn’t enough of a sell, I don’t know what is.
NEW YORK JETS
Is anyone talking about this? Not really. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make a ton of sense. The Jets have a ton of cap room and need to solidify their line somehow. They have pieces they can build around but Jensen could provide that anchor and again set the tone for the protection around Zach Wilson.
Follow me here, too. Jets general manager Joe Douglas was part of the Ravens’ staff that drafted Jensen in the first place. Douglas is plenty familiar with him and has likely followed his career as Jensen has morphed into a stud at center with the accolades to match.
The biggest thing is the Jets can afford to pay Jensen. After Jason Kelce just agreed to a reported 1-year, $14 million contract with the Eagles, it isn’t farfetched to say Jensen will want something comparable and New York is in a position to do that with the need for it.
I have to think Jets fans would welcome Jensen with open arms, too.