The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could target a longtime veteran following a “serious” injury to one of their Pro Bowl starters.
Starting center and 2021 Pro Bowler Ryan Jensen suffered a serious knee injury during the final period of practice on Thursday, July 28, as Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times noted. Jensen was carted off the field with a trainer holding his knee. Although there was no definitive injury diagnosis following Jensen’s knee injury, the mood indicated Jensen could possibly be out for an extended period of time.
“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 Stroud.
Buccaneers’ Top Option at Center
As Stroud noted shortly after Jensen’s injury, the Buccaneers could sign a veteran center to replace their Pro Bowl offensive lineman. The top candidate Stroud listed is none other than former Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter.
“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.”
Jensen’s injury further complicates matter for Tampa Bay due to the massive exodus on the interior of the offensive line. The Buccaneers are already replacing both of their starting guards from last season, Alex Cappa and Ali Marpet. If Jensen’s injury proves to be serious, the Buccaneers will have three new starting offensive linemen in Week 1.
Like Jensen, Tretter is also 31 years of age. The nine-year NFL veteran spent the first four seasons of his career with the Green Bay Packers before spending the last five seasons with the Browns. The former fourth-round draft selection missed just one game during his Browns tenure, starting all 80 games in which he appeared.
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Tretter Would Represent Upgrade Over Jensen
According to Pro Football Focus, Tretter posted a 78.7 offensive grade and 83.7 pass-blocking grade last season. Among centers with at least 500 snaps, Tretter ranked fifth in overall grade and second in pass blocking. By comparison, Jensen posted a 69.9 offensive grade and 61.7 pass-blocking grade last season.
Although it would take time for Brady to get adjusted to a new center, Tretter would be a major upgrade over Jensen.
Jensen recently signed a three-year, $39 million contract with $26.5 million guaranteed just one day after Tom Brady announced his return back in March. If the Buccaneers refuse to go the veteran route for a new center, Robert Hainsey — a second-year pro from Notre Dame — would step in as Jensen’s replacement.
Head coach Todd Bowles addressed the idea of the Bucs looking at their options following Jensen’s injury.
“It’s early in camp,” Bowles said. “We’ll start moving some guys in there and we’ll get in pads and if he has to miss any time, we’ll go from there. We’ll have some battles going in there as well.”