For those wondering when the Buccaneers were going to make a splash move in free agency, it has happened on Friday evening. Tampa Bay has lured Ravens free agent center Ryan Jensen with the most lucrative deal in pro football history for a center.
Highest paid center in NFL. https://t.co/TgsPGBFiyJ
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 17, 2018
The $22 million guaranteed is something Tampa Bay could easily afford, as they were more than $45 million under the cap, when free agency began Wednesday. Since that time, they signed defensive tackles Beau Allen from the Eagles and Mitch Unrein from the Bears, as well as kicker Chandler Cantazaro from the Jets.
However, none of those are “blockbuster signings,” and while signing a center to a huge deal isn’t going to cause anyone to say “now they are a Super Bowl contender,” it was a need for the Bucs.
For Jensen, he had visited with the Bucs on Wednesday extensively, but chose to go ahead and take a planned visit to the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday. Apparently, he was persuaded not only by the contract dollars, but the fact that the Buccaneers have a young core of offensive weapons led by QB Jameis Winston and WR Mike Evans that should make them formidable with a good offensive line.
Jensen is a former sixth round pick of the Ravens in 2014 and started all 16 games last year in Baltimore.
We had written earlier on Friday that Tampa Bay might be interested in recently-released Dolphins center Mike Pouncey. Obviously that was not a strong consideration, as they continue to wait for and negotiate with Jensen.
This move signals that the Buccaneers will likely move last year’s Center, Ali Marpet, back to his former position of right guard. Marpet was a highly successful guard in 2015 and 16 in the Bucs offenses. He moved to center, as a bigger and quicker option than former starter of those years, Joe Hawley.
The Bucs have two guards in Evan Smith and Kevin Pamphile, who who have played significantly the last couple of seasons, but they’ve now both been allowed to test the free-agent market.
The other question around Jensen signing and Marpet moving, is what happens to high-priced guard J.R. Sweezy, who struggled and was injured at the end of last season?
It remains to be seen if Sweezy sticks around, and maybe, even at a reduce salary, or not.
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