The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be without one of their top players for an extended period of time.
Just a day after Ryan Jensen was carted off the field with what appeared to be a significant knee injury, head coach Todd Bowles addressed the severity of his starting center’s ailment. According to Bowles, Jensen will miss “significant” time and won’t be available anytime soon. Bowles revealed that Jensen will miss at least a couple of months.
Via Greg Auman of The Athletic:
“Todd Bowles on Ryan Jensen: ‘We don’t know the severity of it per se, but I do know he’ll miss some significant time, up to a couple of months, whether he’ll be back later in the season, November or December, that depends on what they find. He won’t be available anytime soon.'”
Jensen suffered the injury during the final period of practice on Thursday, July 28. The immediate reaction following Jensen’s injury indicated that it wasn’t a light injury.
“Neither coach Todd Bowles nor general manager Jason Licht had any immediate updates on Jensen’s condition, but their tones indicated the injury could be serious,” said Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times.
Buccaneers Lacking Experienced Backups Behind Jensen
The 31-year-old veteran hasn’t missed a single game since joining the Buccaneers in 2018 and hasn’t missed a game since 2016 as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. Jensen has proved to be one of the most durable centers in the league, playing every offensive snap between 2017 and 2019. He appeared in 99 percent of the snaps in 2020 and 97 percent of the snaps during the 2021 season.
The top options to replace Jensen at center is second-year pro Robert Hainsey and former undrafted free agent Nick Leverett. Hainsey appeared in 31 snaps last season while Leverett appeared in 60 snaps last season.
With 2021 starting guards Alex Cappa and Ali Marpet departing in the offseason, the Buccaneers are looking at three new starters on the interior of their offensive line to open up the 2022 season.
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Buccaneers Could Target JC Tretter as Replacement
As far as possible free agent options to replace Jensen, former Cleveland Browns center J.C. Tretter has emerged as a top option. According to Stroud, the Buccaneers could sign the nine-year veteran.
“With the center position as important as any other in the NFL — especially for a team quarterbacked by Brady — the Bucs could try to sign a veteran,” says Stroud. “Former Browns center JC Tretter, 31, was released in March to save $8.2 million from the salary cap.”
Tretter is just as durable as Jensen, having missed just one game after joining the Cleveland Browns in 2017. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, he’s a major upgrade over Jensen. Tretter posted a 78.7 offensive grade and 83.7 pass-blocking grade last season, ranking in the top five (of players with at least 500 snaps) among all centers in both categories.
By comparison, Jensen posted a 69.9 offensive grade and 61.7 pass-blocking grade last season in a far superior offensive line — the Buccaneers ranked fifth in pass-blocking grade last season, while the Browns ranked 11th.
If the Buccaneers aren’t comfortable with their younger, less experienced options at center, Tretter would be the top option available.