The recent retirement of Tom Brady is only one of the Bucs concerns this offseason. The Bucs also have 10 free agent starters they’ll attempt to re-sign, including five on offense. One of those five is center Ryan Jensen, whose four-year contract will expire this spring.
Jensen has been a key part of the Bucs cultural transformation in the trenches as a tone-setter. His first Pro Bowl nod came this season, after years as one of the NFL’s most physical players. While in Las Vegas for the event, the Bucs team website caught up with him to talk free agency. There’s a common thought out there that Jensen is less likely to return because of Brady’s retirement. However, the veteran center shrugged off that idea.
“I don’t think that’s a huge factor for me right now,” Jensen said when asked about Brady’s retirement. “I’m just kind of riding through the waves and whatever happens, happens. That’s kind of how I’ve always been. So I’m not too worried about looking into that at this moment. I’m just excited to be here and getting to enjoy the Pro Bowl with some of my teammates.”
Bucs C Ryan Jensen – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Jensen will be 31 in May, which makes his free agency complicated. He’s one of the best centers in the league, and is currently making about $10.5 million per year. It’s reasonable to believe Jensen’s next contract could represent a raise, or at least a similar rate to his last deal. Would the Bucs be willing to pay that for an aging center, especially with the other free agents they want to retain? Keep in mind, the team is already paying high level money to Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith. At some point, Tristan Wirfs will re-set the market at his position too.
Jensen hasn’t missed a game since 2016, starting 81 straight contests. But he’s played through several different injuries over the past two seasons. The track record for signing older free agent offensive linemen is troubling to say the least. Eventually, there is concern Jensen’s grueling style of play will take a toll on his body. But Jensen is a key leader in Tampa Bay’s locker room. If the team can retain him without breaking the bank, they’ll try to.