After missing most of the past two seasons due to the knee injury he suffered during training camp in 2022, Ryan Jensen will opt to retire. The veteran center announced on social media Friday he will leave the game after 11 years.
Jensen, 32, has been with the Bucs since 2018. The former sixth-round Ravens pick served as an integral piece on the Bucs’ Tom Brady-era O-lines, helping the team win Super Bowl LV. But Jensen sustained a severe knee injury two summers ago, one that altered his career.
Shortly after Brady backtracked on retirement No. 1 in March 2022, the Bucs reached an agreement to bring back Jensen. The Pro Bowl center signed a three-year, $39MM deal to stay in Tampa. Months later, however, Jensen suffered the injury that took him out of the mix. The Colorado State alum sustained full tears of his MCL and PCL and a partial tear of his ACL, along with meniscus damage.
Jensen did not undergo surgery and worked his way back to play every snap in the Bucs’ wild-card game against the Cowboys, but he was not at full strength that night. And the return for the playoff matchup did not precede Jensen being back to regular duty this past season. The Bucs placed Jensen on IR before the season, and it came out at that point his career was likely over. He is making that official today.
The Ravens plugged Jensen into their starting lineup on a part-time basis in 2015, but he broke through during his 2017 contract year. Jensen started all 16 games for the Ravens that season, becoming the team’s regular center. That attracted the attention of the Bucs, who signed him (four years, $42MM) to be the pivot in their then-Dirk Koetter-run offense. Bruce Arians did not rock the boat at the position, and Jensen displayed durability before that seminal 2022 day, starting every game as a Buccaneer from 2018-21.
While the presences of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin may have done the most to entice Brady during free agency in 2020, Tampa Bay presented the all-time great QB with a promising O-line setup. Jensen joined guards Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa, along with tackle Donovan Smith at that point. The Bucs then used their first-round pick to nab Tristan Wirfs, who quickly emerged as a right tackle anchor en route to eventual All-Pro acclaim. Jensen started all five Bucs playoff games from 2020-21, helping the team to its second championship and commanding a strong market that produced the subsequent $13MM-per-year accord.
Jensen’s injury played a major role in the Bucs’ offense unraveling in 2022, and while he expressed optimism that he could return to 100% before the 2023 season, his latest training camp did not feature much participation. The Bucs restructured Jensen’s contract last year, and he will count $16.57MM against the Bucs’ 2024 cap. While Brady’s $35.1MM void years-driven number from this past season dwarfs that figure, it still represents a decent chunk of dead cap.
During his nine regular seasons as an active NFLer, Jensen started 90 games. He will close his career having pocketed more than $72MM.