First, let me say I was extremely happy when Ryan Jensen decided to sign with the Buccaneers instead of the Indianapolis Colts. I felt he was the necessary free agent signing if the Bucs offensive line was going to take a big step forward in 2018. Now, with that said, lets look at the info behind the question in the headline.
Yes, the Bucs overpaid for Jensen. No, it wasn’t a huge mistake by Bucs general manager Jason Licht because Jensen is good and also because every team overpays in free agency. Yes, you read that right. Every team that signs a big name free agent ended up overpaying for that player. That is just the supply and demand nature of free agency. Teams searching for the last missing piece(s) will burn through cap space faster than a kid and their weekly allowance. I should remind you that just because a team overpays for a player, does not mean that player is overrated, shouldn’t have been signed and won’t be any good.
Bleacher Report’s Doug Farrar recently listed every NFL team’s most overpaid player. He explains his reasoning for choosing Jensen below.
“Jensen played just 704 snaps in his first three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, but that number kicked up to 1,052 in 2017, as the former sixth-rounder from Colorado State-Pueblo became one of the few bright spots in a dysfunctional offense. For that, Jensen was rewarded by the Buccaneers with a four-year, $42 million deal with $22 million guaranteed.
Nice money if you can get it, but the Bucs are banking on a player who’s essentially a one-year starter, and they gave him the most guaranteed money any NFL center has at this point. Moreover, Jensen has a 2018 cap hit of $12 million and a cap hit of $10 million in each of the following three seasons, and there’s no sensible way for the team to get out of the deal if need be until the 2020 season.
That’s a great deal of money for a player who’s shown improvement over his NFL career but hasn’t really shown a standout level of play commensurate with the best at his position. There are times when you have to pay on potential, but unless Jensen makes a major jump in effectiveness, this looks like a serious overpayment.”
What Farrar wrote is true. Jensen is essentially a one year starter who had a break out year once he took over anchoring the Baltimore Ravens offensive line. But, while I agree the Bucs are kind of paying for potential, I disagree that Jensen hasn’t shown standout play. Back in January Bleacher Report released their NFL1000: Ranking the Top Centers of 2017 Season. If you click the link you’ll have to scroll all the way down to #8 to find Jensen.
NFL1000 OL Scout Ethan Young said:
Ryan Jensen had a fantastic season. The Colorado State-Pueblo alum has improved in each of the five seasons he’s been in the league and has become a vital cog in the Baltimore Ravens’ creative run game. Jensen’s schematic importance in what they want to do on the ground cannot be overstated, as he’s become the catalyst inside.
NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar said:
Jensen has fantastic tools for playing center. He gets in his stance in a flash after snapping the ball, engages with great leverage, is mobile to and through the second level, and has the toughness and attitude to take a defender down with a cockroach block from time to time. Baltimore’s 27th-ranked offense was severely limited in 2017, but none of that was Jensen’s fault.
A top 10 overall ranking seems like a ringing endorsement to me. I’m not sure what happened between January and now, but Farrar seems to have forgotten his rankings from just a couple of months ago. But, Bleacher Report wasn’t the only football site that was high on the Bucs new center. PFF had Jensen as the #9 overall center in 2017 and according to Football Outsiders, he anchored an offensive line that finished #6 in run blocking and #4 in pass protection.
Jensen was one of the most sought after 2018 free agents and, as I’ve pointed out above, for good reason. Was the cost of signing him a bit high? Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll know in the next 2-3 years. But, as fellow Bucs Nation writer Alex Salvarezza wrote Jensen is already bringing physicality to Bucs practice and setting a nastier tone for the whole offensive line. The Bucs have been missing a player with that kind of gritty/mean streak since Logan Mankins retired in 2016. Is Jensen the best center in the NFL? No. But he damn sure is in the top 10, and I know that makes Jameis Winston a very happy quarterback.