It will cost the Buccaneers to keep Ryan Jensen. Despite this being the veteran center’s second go-round at free agency, he is expected to have a robust market.
The Bengals, Jets and Jaguars are among the teams expected to have interest in Jensen once he hits the market, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com notes. Meanwhile, the Bucs want to do “everything possible” to keep their four-year center, Wilson adds. This follows a report that indicated Tampa Bay wanted to retain Jensen and Alex Cappa, with Ali Marpet‘s surprise retirement putting pressure on the Bucs to hang onto their other top interior O-linemen.
With the franchise tag formula grouping all offensive linemen together, the tag is not a realistic option for the Bucs, who also have plenty of other starters headed for free agency. The O-line tag is expected to approach $17MM; the NFL’s highest-paid center (Frank Ragnow) earns $13.5MM annually. The demand for Jensen could give the center position a new top salary. That would be quite the development for the ex-Raven, who signed a center-record deal (four years, $42MM) when he was last a free agent in 2018.
Jensen, 31 in May, has not missed a game over the past five seasons. He earned his first Pro Bowl nod this past year. Jacksonville, Cincinnati and New York each are among the top five in terms of cap space. Tampa Bay is barely $2MM over the cap, residing near the bottom of the league in terms of offseason resources.
The Bengals obviously have needs across their O-line, and they appear to be committed to improving the center position. They are also expected to pursue Ravens center Bradley Bozeman, who looms as a cheaper alternative to Jensen. The Jets signed Connor McGovern just two years ago in free agency, giving him a three-year, $27MM deal. His contract is up after the 2022 season. Jacksonville has Brandon Linder under contract, but the longtime Jaguars blocker has run into rampant injury trouble. The Jags could save $9.5MM by cutting Linder.