From Question Mark To Keeper

June 30th, 2021

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He comes to work every day, rolls up his pewter sleeves and kicks butt.

Shouldn’t he be the center of attention?

It’s easy to overlook the contributions of Ryan Jensen when you gaze at Tampa Bay’s star-studded roster. He’s never made the Pro Bowl or the All-Pro team and if you’re not Jensen’s teammate, you just might consider him a dirty player.

He’d take that as quite a compliment.

“I just play nasty, old-school football,” he says. “I’ve just known nothing else. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, you don’t.”

At the moment, the Super Bowl champions are loving what Jensen brings to the football field. He plays hard to the whistle — and perhaps a second or two longer, if necessary.

Jensen had been an NFL starter only one season when the Bucs signed him as a free agent from Baltimore in 2018, making him the highest-paid center in the league. That decision looked like a Jason Licht gaffe when the 2018 Bucs allowed 41 sacks and the running game stunk. And Jensen, as the anchor of the offensive line, sunk too many drives with 11 penalties that cost the Bucs 120 yards.

Ryan Jensen beat his flag issues

Among the infractions were five holding calls and four flags for unnecessary roughness. Jensen’s play improved under a new coaching staff in 2019 and he was outstanding last season, earning the trust and respect of Tom Brady.

Last year, he generated only four flags for 35 yards and showcased his versatility by filling in at left guard for a few weeks when Ali Marpet was sidelined by a concussion.

“Ryan’s leadership is priceless and his physicality is priceless,” says Byron Leftwich. “You respect the violence he brings to the game, you respect his ability to think his way through.”

Jensen’s base salary next season is $9.25 million and he could become a 30-year-old unrestricted free agent in 2022, seeking a long-term commitment. At this point, he brings a lot to the negotiating table.

Jensen has gone four years without missing a game and he’s the middle man for an offensive line that is now a team strength rather than a liability.

Clean QB, Clean Game

Brady and Jensen experienced very few issues with exchanges and stout quarterback protection was the norm, particularly up the middle. Jensen took great pride in keeping pass rushers off Brady and they paid dearly for any cheap shots at No. 12.

Big Brother was watching.

“I’ve had defensive coordinators and players from other teams come up to me and say, ‘I hate you, but I love you,’ ” Jensen says.

Donovan Smith and Marpet have been in Tampa longer, but if you’re looking for the leader of this group, look at No. 66. He sets the aggressive tone Bruce Arians craves and Brady appreciates. And along the way, Jensen has displayed more discipline while sacrificing none of his physicality.

The Bucs will once again have difficult contract decisions to make in the offseason. Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette, Carlton Davis and Jason Pierre-Paul could all test the free-agent market, along with Jensen, who won’t be easy to replace.

Sage Ira Kaufman has become a big Ryan Jensen fan

Perhaps third-round pick Robert Hainsey can make the transition from right tackle at Notre Dame to center in the NFL.


For now, the Bucs are feeling very good about their offensive line in general and their center in particular. Jensen has proven to be a durable, reliable player who embodies hostility in the best sense of the word. He’ll do anything to keep Brady’s uniform clean and clear a path for a suddenly robust rushing attack.

”I love the way Ryan plays,” Arians says. ”You know he’s one of those marked guys, and every referee crew comes up and they’ve got somebody they’ve marked. Whether it be a guy that rushes the passer all the time or takes a shot here or there, Ndamukong Suh was that way for a long time.

“And I always tell the refs, ‘Hey, dude, Jensen is going to play to the whistle. If he does something extra-curricular, warn him or penalize him. But he’s going to play to the whistle, all right.’ If you don’t like finishing people off, then you shouldn’t be in the business.”

Jensen revels in giving defenders the business. He’ll dole out a push or a shove, just to remind opponents they’re in for a long day.

He’s no longer a question mark. He’s a keeper.

Heated running backs debate at the 32:20 mark in this episode of the Ira Kaufman Podcast, presented by Bill Currie Ford.

11 Responses to “From Question Mark To Keeper”

  1. 74 Bucs Fan Says:

    And his style of play has rubbed off on the other linemen. I’ve seen Marpet slam into the pile to push for an extra yard. I’ve seen Donnie sling DE’s to the ground and then jump on them. Cappa plays hard period. Wirfs is just a beast, and hope he continues to excel and play through the whistle. Our line is set and should continue to dominate.

    The brutal Bears game last year was the turning point. Getting chastised by the GOAT set things straight. Improve the run blocking with better holes, and there will be no stopping the freight train!

    The Grave Diggers are watching and waiting for there turn!

  2. 74 Bucs Fan Says:

    ^^^ “their”

  3. ‘79Defense Says:

    Work on eliminating those bad snaps, Ryan.

  4. Duane Says:

    Jensen is a beast and turned it up in the post season. He is worth the money we pay him. Not sure I would pay more for his services next year, but he is worthy of keeping on the roster for at least a couple more years. Godwin will be resigned, Davis will be resigned, then will come the next tier of Jensen, Gronk, and JPP. I have no opinion on Rojo or Lenny because we are not likely to run the ball in a BA offense. This team is managing the finances well so far. Keep the young players long term, rotate the vets on shorter deals.

  5. HeyItsAdam Says:

    I forgot what game it was, but it was toward the end of the season, RJ got into a shoving match after the whistle and I remember saying, “Don’t do it!” thinking he was going to retaliate because he had done that a bunch in 2019…. But he put his hands up and the ref flagged the OTHER guy!

    I remember being very impressed with this maturity and guile when it came to literally drawing a flag.

  6. Alanbucsfan Says:

    If the OLine is not signed for the next 4-5 years, then the Trask pick is a waste.

  7. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    Yes, Jensen is a beast and his attitude rubs off on all our guys.
    He brought a new kind of physicality to our O Line.
    I am glad we got him!

  8. Georger Says:

    I rather they extended the contract of Jensen than Smith. I guess finding a LT is harder.

  9. dls5492 Says:

    He lives in Chris Jone’s head, rent free!

  10. Alvin Scissors Harper Says:

    As a guy with a bunch of significant skin cancers and a light complexion, keep putting the quality sun screen on young man! You absolutely need it!

  11. Winny Testaverde Says:

    He was knocking some Saints defenders around in the playoff game…it was great. Every team needs a Red Jensen type to act as an enforcer if not instigator.