The Bucs may have lost both starting guards this offseason, but the team was determined to keep center Ryan Jensen as a Buccaneer at the start of free agency. Tampa Bay made Jensen the highest-paid center in the NFL in 2018 when it signed him from Baltimore.
Jensen’s new deal is $39 million over three years and features $23 million in guaranteed money. It features a base salary of $1.5 million and a $12.5 million signing bonus, according to OverTheCap.com. Jensen’s cap hit for 2022 is a very manageable $4 million.
“I’m extremely excited to be back,” Jensen said. “I never wanted to leave. When Tampa signed me in 2018 it made a dream come true. I wanted to stay here. I wanted to end my career here. So being able to sign a contract that can potentially make me retire as a Buccaneer is what I’ve been looking for.”
As Pewter Report reported two weeks ago, once Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet retired, the team knew it could only afford to keep one of its free agent offensive linemen – Jensen or Alex Cappa. The Bucs decided to pay Jensen top dollar to keep the 31-year old center in Tampa Bay.
Jensen’s $13 million is the second-highest average in the league at the center position behind Detroit’s Frank Ragnow’s $13.5 million. Yet Michigan has a high state income tax and Florida does not having a state income tax. So Jensen will actually make more money than Ragnow with his contract.
Bucs C Ryan Jensen and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“It’s just amazing what hard work and determination can bring to somebody,” Jensen said. “That’s what my career has been – trying to prove everybody wrong. And trying to be the best football player I can be.”
Jensen had already committed to coming back to Tampa Bay before he received a call from Tom Brady. On Sunday, Brady announced he was going to return for his 23rd season. The Bucs’ Pro Bowl center was in the middle of a birthday party for his daughter and dealing with contract negotiations with the Bucs at the same time when Brady called.
“That was just the sugar on top,” Jensen said. “To say I was surprised that Tom is coming back, I honestly don’t think I was that surprised. I think the way everything transpired last year and the way that the season ended, a player like Tom, obviously the greatest to ever do it, can’t go out like that. When he retired, I kind of thought to myself, ‘I don’t know. I think he’s going to be back.’ When he called me on Sunday and confirmed that’s kind of what I thought. He can’t go out that way.”
Jensen noted that having Brady back for another year makes the Bucs even more attractive to free agents.
“We’ll take anyone we can get back,” Jensen said. “Obviously, Tom coming back could sway some decisions of some guys that are in free agency that are looking to sign back. Tom is probably the greatest recruiter of all time.”
The Bucs will have to find a pair of guards to start next to Jensen this season to replace Marpet and Cappa. One option is Aaron Stinnie. He signed to one-year, prove-it deal over the weekend.
“Stinnie, he came in in the Super Bowl run and played lights out,” Jensen said. “There is obviously no doubt that Stinnie can play football. Obviously, we have a couple of young guys on the interior that can play who could have a chance to potentially start like Nick Leverett. There are a couple of guys on the roster right now that could potentially step up and take that spot over. I’m excited to see who wins that job and excited to get to work with them.”
The Bucs are excited to have Jensen back as Brady’s center.
“I wanted to be back, I’m glad that I am back,” Jensen said. “I’m excited and happy to be home.”