Ryan Jensen Agrees to 4-Year, $42 Million Contract with Buccaneers

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2018

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 3: Center Ryan Jensen #66 of the Baltimore Ravens takes the field prior to the game against the Detroit Lions at M&T Bank Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)
Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

Veteran center Ryan Jensen has agreed to terms on a four-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

His agent, Mike McCartney, relayed the news Friday, and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported the deal was worth $42 million with $22 million guaranteed. 

Jensen, a sixth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2013, couldn't have hit free agency at a more opportune time. He's coming off his best season in the NFL and started all 16 games for Baltimore in 2017.

Jensen sat eighth in the year-end center rankings from Bleacher Report's NFL1000 team. B/R's Doug Farrar was particularly complimentary toward the 26-year-old:

"Jensen has fantastic tools for playing center. He gets in his stance in a flash after snapping the ball, engages with great leverage, is mobile to and through the second level, and has the toughness and attitude to take a defender down with a cockroach block from time to time. Baltimore's 27th-ranked offense was severely limited in 2017, but none of that was Jensen's fault."

As the best center in free agency this year, Jensen could potentially reset the market for what the top players at his position would be paid. The MMQB's Albert Breer wrote March 8 that Jensen was poised to challenge Brandon Linder as the highest-paid center.

Linder's averaging a little over $10.3 million annually from the five-year deal he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in July 2017.

Whether or not Jensen received a record-setting contract, his value all but ruled out a return to the Ravens. Baltimore doesn't have a ton of salary cap space, so spending big money on a center—even one as good as Jensen—didn't make sense.

The Ravens' loss is Tampa Bay's gain, though this new contract will mean increased expectations for Jensen. With a full season of starting experience under his belt, the Buccaneers will likely expect him to continue improving in 2018.

In that sense, there's some risk that comes with this deal. If Jensen can take the next step and become a Pro Bowl center within the next few seasons, then he'll justify the Buccaneers' investment. Should that potential fail to materialize, however, then this contract could look a lot more cumbersome on Tampa Bay's payroll.

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