Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen is the first devastating injury of NFL training camp. For a team already facing questions on the interior offensive line, this is a massive blow for one of the Super Bowl favorites.
Jensen went down during practice on Thursday with a knee injury, which the team believes will end his season before it even begins. The development comes just months after Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet retired and fellow starter Alex Cappa signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency.
While Shaq Mason fortified one vacancy at guard, the Buccaneers and quarterback Tom Brady are especially reliant on Jensen as the leader of the offensive line. Suddenly without their anchor and coach in the heart of the trenches, Tampa Bay needs to find his replacement quickly.
- Ryan Jensen PFF stats (2021): 76.1 run-blocking grade, 21 pressures allowed in 786 pass-block snaps
While center Robert Hainsey is an internal candidate to step into the starting lineup, the Buccaneers need alternatives. Brady returned to win another Lombardi Trophy and because interior pressure is his lone weakness, the front office will need to explore every avenue to upgrade the position.
Here are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers three best options to replace Ryan Jensen.
J.C. Tretter provides a high-cost solution
Released by the Cleveland Browns early this offseason, J.C. Tretter has likely received plenty of offers. However, the 31-year-old starter is waiting for the right opportunity with strong financial incentives attached to any proposal.
That’s one area where Tampa Bay falls a bit short, sitting at just over $9 million in cap space (OverTheCap.com) entering August. Keep in mind, some of that space needs to be saved for in-season additions and roster management throughout the year. Of course, there’s always a way to make things work if the two sides want it bad enough.
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Tretter is clearly the Buccaneers’ best option. He earned a stellar 83.7 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus in 2021, surrendering just 10 pressures and one quarterback hits in 587 pass-block snaps. He’s also an above-average run blocker, seemingly a perfect fit for Tampa Bay. He is on the Buccaneers’ radar, it might just come down to cost.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign Matt Paradis
There’s an undeniable drop-off in talent in free agency after Tretter. No one would consider Matt Paradis to be an improvement over Jensen and he’s certainly not an option Tampa Bay would feel over the moon about starting. With that said, a reliable veteran might be the best option to support Brady.
Paradis, entering his age-33 season, won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos and he started 41 games in the last three seasons for the Carolina Panthers. He did suffer a torn ACL in Week 9 this past season, so there might be some elevated risk with an older center playing on a surgically-repaired knee.
This still qualifies as a solid band-aid for the Buccaneers’ problem. It’s notable Paradis allowed 16 pressures on just 343 pass-block snaps last year (4.6% pressure rate) and received a 53.6 PFF grade in that department. He’s also just a slightly above-average run blocker. If Brady prefers experience over upside and the Bucs want in-season financial flexibility, Paradis might be the preferred option.
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New York Jets send Dan Feeney to Tampa Bay
The New York Jets are set at center with Connor McGovern, creating an opportunity for a team needing depth at center to pursue Dan Feeney. For the Buccaneers, he could be the type of player who could challenge Hainsey for the starting job during training camp.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers trade: Scotty Miller
- New York Jets trade: Dan Feeney
Scotty Miller isn’t a lock to make the Buccaneers’ 53-man roster, but there could be a better opportunity for him in New York. While the Jets have some nice talent at receiver (Elijah Moore, Corey Davis, Denzel Mims), there would at least be some snaps for Miller and he could fit nicely considering Zach Wilson’s arm strength.
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There’s also enough reason for Tampa Bay to take a shot on Feeney. Among centers who played 100-plus snaps this past season, Feeney ranked 11th in overall PFF grade (75.9), carried by a 79.3 grade as a run blocker. While pass protection is an issue, the Buccaneers could hope Brady’s quick release and ability to diagnose pressures would help protect against Feeney’s shortcomings. At the very least, Feeney provides quality depth at a reasonable cost.