Robert Hainsey

Latest On Ryan Jensen, Buccaneers’ Deadline Plans

A recent report indicated that Buccaneers offensive lineman Ryan Jensen could make his return as soon as next week. However, Greg Auman of The Athletic is throwing some cold water on that idea, writing that Jensen “has only a small chance of returning from his knee injury.”

[RELATED: Ryan Jensen November Return In Play?]

The veteran center suffered a knee injury during training camp that was initially feared to be season-ending. Subsequent reports provided a bit more optimism about his prospects of returning during the 2022 regular season or playoffs, and his IR placement reflected that sentiment. A few weeks ago, there were whispers that the Buccaneers were hoping Jensen would be back on the field at some point in November, with the team specifically targeting a November 6th return. The team’s Week 11 bye could also be a target return date, but now it’s sounding like we shouldn’t count on an imminent return.

Jensen, who has started all 65 of his appearances since joining Tampa Bay in 2018, would naturally provide a boost to Tampa Bay’s offensive line, although the unit has generally ranked among the top-1o through the first chunk of the season. Pro Football Focus has generally ranked Jensen among the best centers in the NFL, and the veteran earned his first career Pro Bowl nod in 2021.

Auman discussed Jensen’s potential return in the context of Tampa Bay making a trade to upgrade their offensive line. Second-round guard Luke Goedeke has struggled so far in 2022, and backup Nick Leverett doesn’t have much of a track record. Both Jensen and his current fill-in, Robert Hainsey, are under contract for next season. While the team could look for a temporary upgrade for Goedeke, Auman opines that the organization would be better off pursuing a rental before having Goedeke and Hainsey compete for one of the guard spots opposite Shaq Mason in 2023.

Who could fit that bill? For starters, Auman suggests the team could look to deal from a position of strength and pursue another team’s depth piece. The writer also points to someone like Commanders guard Andrew Norwell, who doesn’t have any guaranteed money owed beyond this season. Panthers guard Austin Corbett is also an affordable option, although he’s under contract for the 2023 campaign.

Buccaneers Considering O-Line Trades

Between Tom Brady‘s second and third Buccaneers seasons, Tampa Bay’s interior offensive line has gone from one of the league’s most stable areas to an undependable spot. Injuries to Ryan Jensen and Aaron Stinnie followed the exits of Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa. The Bucs endured more issues Saturday night, when both Robert Hainsey and Nick Leverett went down during the team’s preseason finale.

Hainsey, who is in line to replace Jensen at center, suffered an ankle injury. The Bucs do look to have caught a break with the second-year blocker, whom Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets could return by Week 1 after X-rays revealed a short-term injury. Leverett suffered a shoulder malady, and Wilson adds that is also not considered to be a serious issue (Twitter link). But the run of injuries this position group has suffered cannot exactly be ignored.

[RELATED: Jensen Injury Not Season-Ending?]

This latest round of setbacks reminds of how much has changed for the Bucs’ offensive line, which does have trade acquisition Shaq Mason healthy as the regular season nears. Todd Bowles confirmed the team will look at acquisitions along the O-line.

There is not a sense of urgency unless we lose the two that went down yesterday,” Bowles said, via JoeBucsFan.com. “You have to have someone willing to give you a good football player [in a trade]. Nobody is going to give you a good football player. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you.

We are going to look at the waiver wire. We are going to look at certain trades to see if we can find some things out there. But if there is nothing out there, we still have some guys that can play.”

The Bucs join the Bears and 49ers as known teams to be looking into O-line trades, though this is likely not the only trio making inquiries into availability at these premium positions. Tampa Bay used a third-round pick on Hainsey in 2021 and a second-rounder on guard Luke Goedeke. The latter is expected, due to Jensen and Stinnie’s severe injuries, to be a starter. More clarity on Hainsey’s status will help clear up the Bucs’ O-line picture for Week 1. The team has lost linemen during practice and preseason games this summer. Depth, at least, may be needed this week.

NFC South Notes: Panthers, Bucs, Davidson

Matt Corral landed on the Panthers’ IR Tuesday, ending his rookie season before it started. The Lisfranc injury the third-round pick suffered will require surgery, Matt Rhule said. The Panthers had planned to carry Corral as their third-string quarterback during what was to be a developmental year, with the team wanting him to add muscle to his 205-pound frame and obviously learn a pro-style offense, per Joe Person of The Athletic. Because of Corral’s injury, the Panthers’ roster math may change. The team may no longer be preparing to carry three quarterbacks, Person notes (subscription required). This news would pertain to P.J. Walker, the former XFL 2.0 standout who has been Carolina’s backup the past two seasons. Walker, who has won both his regular-season starts but holds a career 51.6 passer rating, struggled in the Panthers’ second preseason game. The 27-year-old passer could be stashed on the practice squad — behind starter Baker Mayfield and backup Sam Darnold — if he clears waivers in the event of a cut before next week’s deadline.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • Shifting to the division’s most famous quarterback, Tom Brady is now back with the Buccaneers. The all-time great missed nearly two weeks of training camp. Family time has circulated as the reasoning behind Brady’s absence, which coincidentally occurred while the team held joint practices against the Dolphins, and Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com notes Brady and wife Gisele Bundchen spent time at an exclusive Bahamas resort. Not a bad arrangement, though not many players could swing such a mid-camp trip. Brady has not taken questions since the Dolphins scandal broke, but he is back practicing with the Bucs.
  • During Brady’s time away, the Bucs lost another potential O-line starter. Aaron Stinnie‘s ACL and MCL tears add to a lengthy list of changes to Tampa Bay’s interior O-line. Ali Marpet retired, Alex Cappa signed with the Bengals, and Ryan Jensen suffered what may be a season-ending injury. Jensen, however, may have a late-season return window. The Bucs are not planning to place their starting center on IR, with Albert Breer of SI.com noting the veteran blocker’s “complicated” injury could have him available for the playoffs. For now, the team will keep that door open. That would mean carrying Jensen onto the 53-man roster and then placing him on IR.
  • For now, the Bucs have 2021 third-round pick Robert Hainsey (31 offensive snaps last season) at center and would have either second-round rookie Luke Goedeke or former UDFA Nick Leverett (two career games; zero starts) at left guard opposite Shaq Mason. Goedeke would be the likely in-house solution, Greg Auman of The Athletic notes. Hainsey, who was working at guard earlier this offseason, is unlikely to be moved off his new center post, Auman adds. This would point to the Bucs, if they feel the need arises, looking at the guard market for a veteran. Ereck Flowers, Quinton Spain and James Carpenter are among the top options.
  • While the Bucs are not believed to be actively searching, the loss of two veteran blockers could be rather important in what could be Brady’s final season. The Ravens could be a trade option, Auman offers, holding a potential guard surplus featuring Tyre Phillips, Ben Cleveland and Ben Powers. The team is unlikely to keep all three.
  • Falcons defensive tackle Marlon Davidson underwent arthroscopic knee surgery recently, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes. The team had hoped Davidson, a 2020 second-round pick, would push Ta’Quon Graham to start opposite Grady Jarrett in the team’s 3-4 scheme. Graham, a 2021 fifth-rounder who started five games last season, is now in the lead. Despite his draft pedigree, Davidson has started just one game.

NFC South Rumors: Darnold, Christensen, Bucs, Murphy-Bunting, Werner

As Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield starts to run away with the starting job, questions have been raised about the future of incumbent starter Sam Darnold. When a rumor surfaced that Carolina may be shopping the fifth-year passer, general manager Scott Fitterer pulled Darnold aside to set him at ease, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic.

“I talked to Scott,” Darnold explained. “He said not to worry about it. To be honest, before he talked to me, I didn’t even see it. So I’m just gonna continue to do me and do what I can to put myself in a good position and put this team in a good position.”

Aiding Fitterer in convincing Darnold that he’s not likely to be dealt is Darnold’s $18.86MM salary. There could certainly be a team willing to make a call about Darnold if an injury occurs to their starter, but if the Panthers wanted to offload him, they’d likely have to eat some of his contract, as well.

There’s a good chance, though, that Darnold stays put. As Person explained, “in a league that saw only 12 teams make it through the 17-game regular season in 2021 with one quarterback,” the backup quarterback is still a crucially important position. And, while Darnold may not rank highly among the starters in today’s game, he certainly ranks as one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league. The backup job appears to be his, too, as long as the Panthers continue to slow play the development of rookie third-round pick Matt Corral.

Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC South, starting with another note out of the Tar Heel state:

  • As certain as it seems that rookie first-round pick Ikem Ekwonu will start the 2022 season as the Panthers’ starting left tackle, Carolina is still giving last year’s third-round pick, Brady Christensen, plenty of snaps at the position. According to Person, Christensen took the majority of the first-team reps this past Thursday at the position. Christensen has a highly sought after versatility that gives the Panthers the option of playing him as a guard or a tackle. With Ekwonu still expected to win the starting job, perhaps offensive line coach James Campen just wants to ensure his best backup option has enough experience at one of the offensive line’s most important positions.
  • The Buccaneers‘ interior offensive line will look completely different in 2022 after the departures of Alex Cappa and Ali Marpet, as well as an injury that may cause center Ryan Jensen to miss a significant amount of time. Trade acquisition Shaq Mason will man the right guard position, while the left guard and center positions are still up in the air, according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine. The center position is currently a battle between Robert Hainsey and Nick Leverett. Leverett is also competing for the left guard starting job with Aaron Stinnie and rookie second-round pick Luke Goedeke. A tweet from Bucs staff writer Scott Smith, though, may hint at one of the positions. Smith reports that assistant head coach & run game coordinator Harold Goodwin “hopes a decision (at left guard) will be made prior to the third preseason game” so that the new left guard can “build chemistry with Donovan Smith and (Hainsey).” Smith is projected to be the starting left tackle, so this comment from Goodwin may point to the fact that Hainsey has won the position battle at center.
  • We recently did a rundown of the Buccaneers’ cornerbacks room, but an update, provided by Matt Matera of the Pewter Report, may give us some new information. We claimed that Sean Murphy-Bunting was in a competition with Jamel Dean for the No. 2 cornerback spot opposite Carlton Davis, but that the loser of that battle would still likely get plenty of time as the top option at nickel. According to Matera, though, Murphy-Bunting is no longer working in the slot and is solely competing with Dean for the outside job. Matera adds that Dean seems to have the inside-track which will leave Murphy-Bunting coming off the bench.
  • It appears that Saints second-year linebacker Pete Werner has taken hold of the starting weak-side linebacker position next to Demario Davis, according to Jeff Duncan of nola.com. Duncan comments that the staff’s confidence in Werner is high enough that it assisted in their decision to allow former starter Kwon Alexander to walk in free agency.

Buccaneers Fear Season-Ending Knee Injury For C Ryan Jensen

JULY 29: The Bucs indeed fear Jensen will be out for the season, Rapoport adds. Todd Bowles confirmed Friday the team’s starting center will miss a significant amount of time (video links). The new Tampa Bay HC did not say Jensen would miss the entire season, mentioning a potential multi-month timeline.

The Bucs have already discussed bringing in a veteran, per Bowles, though the fourth-year Tampa Bay staffer said these discussions have not progressed too far just yet. Hainsey, a right tackle at Notre Dame who converted to the interior as a pro, is expected to receive the first crack at replacing Jensen, per Rapoport. Nick Leverett, a former UDFA who played in two games last season, is also in the mix.

JULY 28: A cart transported Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen off the practice field Thursday, and the team is concerned about a long-term absence. The Bucs fear the recently re-signed snapper suffered a serious injury, Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com report (on Twitter).

These reports indeed usually precede bad news for teams. The Bucs just gave Jensen a second contract — a three-year, $39MM deal — to return as Tom Brady‘s center. Tests are ongoing here, but a source informed ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter this situation is “not looking good” for the veteran blocker (Twitter link). Jensen is dealing with a major injury, per Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com (on Twitter). His season is certainly in jeopardy.

Offensive line continuity played a big part in the Bucs’ surge to the Super Bowl LV championship, but the 2021 playoffs and this offseason have brought uncertainty to Tampa Bay’s front. This year has injected considerable O-line change, with longtime guard Ali Marpet retiring and the Bucs letting their other guard starter — Alex Cappa — defect to the Bengals in free agency. A Jensen absence would create a new issue for the Bucs, who will have the oldest primary starting quarterback in NFL history.

Jensen’s recommitment to the Bucs came just after Brady’s; the ninth-year center re-signed with the team hours after Brady’s unretirement. Jensen has established himself as one of the NFL’s top centers, having moved from sixth-round pick to using a contract-year springboard with the Ravens to a 2018 Bucs deal. On that pact, Jensen did not miss a game. The Colorado State-Pueblo alum has not missed a game since the 2016 season. Jensen, 31, made his first Pro Bowl last season.

Tampa Bay did trade a Day 3 pick to acquire Shaq Mason, reuniting Brady with one of his longtime Patriots guards. But the team could soon be vulnerable at two guard positions. With interior O-line play vital to Brady-led offenses, the Bucs could be in need of another veteran reinforcement. While it is premature here, center does feature an interestingly experienced free agent crop. J.C. Tretter, Matt Paradis and Trey Hopkins remain available.

For now, Robert Hainsey will take over at the pivot, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Competing for the other guard spot with second-round pick Luke Goedeke and the recently re-signed Aaron Stinnie, Hainsey is a third-round pick in his second season. Tampa Bay quickly addressed the Rob Gronkowski void by signing Kyle Rudolph. If Jensen is set to miss a substantial amount of time, it would not remotely surprise if Tampa Bay signed one of the top free agent snappers.

NFC Rumors: Toney, Packers, Hainsey, Ragnow

With the news early this morning that Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney is on the trading block after only one season in New York, questions have arisen about the value Toney commands. According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, interest in Toney covers the gamut across the NFL.

Howe reports that some teams have absolutely no interest, while other teams believe that giving him a chance to develop in their system will allow his talent and ability to shine. Toney showed explosive ability in college at Florida, scoring on big plays and showing elite ability after the catch. The Giants looked past several off-field concerns during his time in Gainesville when drafting Toney at 20th overall. Unfortunately for New York, Toney’s off-field issues continued into Year One of his NFL career.

Howe thinks that New York has potentially been trying to move Toney for a while now with little success. He posits that the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft will create some urgency either for receiver-needy teams looking for a young boost to their pass-catching group or for New York to accept a lesser price to get any value out of their failed first-round experiment from 2021.

Here are some other rumors from around the NFC, starting with a new name in Green Bay:

  • According to the Packers’ website, Green Bay finalized their staff this week with the addition of John Donovan as a senior analyst. After 19 years in college football culminating in offensive coordinator jobs at Vanderbilt and Penn State, Donovan first entered the NFL as an offensive quality control coach for the Jaguars. He left Jacksonville to return to college for the offensive coordinator job at the University of Washington. After two years in that role, Donovan will give the NFL another try, this time in Green Bay.
  • Former third-round pick Robert Hainsey played offensive tackle at Notre Dame before working through his rookie year in Tampa Bay at center. Greg Auman of The Athletic believes Hainsey could split the difference and compete for a starting job at guard this year. With Ali Marpet retiring and Alex Cappa signing in the offseason with the Bengals, the Buccaneers will need to replace both spots. They addressed one position, signing former-Patriots guard Shaq Mason to slot in at right guard. They also re-signed Aaron Stinnie who has been a reliable backup in Tampa Bay, but has only started one game in his four-year career. Expect Hainsey to get a chance to compete for the starting spot this offseason.
  • After suffering a season-ending toe injury in a Week 4 loss to the Bears last season, the Lions have reported that Frank Ragnow is feeling strong, healthy, and ready to return to his role as a leader in the middle of the Lions’ offensive line. The Lions will look forward to getting Ragnow back to lead an impressive-sounding group that includes Jonah Jackson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Taylor Decker, and Penei Sewell.