Bucs Pro Bowler suffers potentially career-ending injury setback

Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen could be forced to retire after his most recent injury setback.
Ryan Jensen, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ryan Jensen, Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

In a somber bit of NFL news, Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen has been placed on the season-ending Injury Reserve, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Jensen suffered complications from the knee injury that kept him out all of last season.

Per Rapoport, there is fear that Jensen has played his last NFL snap.

Jensen's most recent regular season reps came in 2021 when he started all 17 games and made his first Pro Bowl appearance. He won the Super Bowl with the Bucs in 2020 as an integral part of Tampa's pass protection around Tom Brady.

Prior to his recent four-year stint with the Bucs (plus two seasons lost to injury), Jensen spent the first four years of his career with the Baltimore Ravens. He was the No. 203 pick in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Colorado State-Pueblo.

The Bucs signed Jensen to a three-year, $39 million contract with $22 million guaranteed after his dominant 2021 season. He's on the books for $17.6 million next season, but the Bucs have a potential (or, perhaps, inevitable) opt-out clause.

Ryan Jensen may have played last game for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Above all else, this is unfortunate for Jensen. He has been a real gem for the Bucs and it's hard to see a player's career end prematurely due to injury. Now, it's not written in stone yet — Rapoport's report notably hinges on the word 'likely' — but the odds are stacked against Jensen, who is 32 years old with decades of football wear and tear on his body. Knee injuries that linger and persist like this are generally hard to overcome, even with the miracles of modern medicine

The Bucs are expected to turn to 2021 third-round pick Robert Hainsey at center. Hainsey started 17 games on the O-line last season and should be a suitable replacement. He's similar in build to Jensen — 6-foot-4, 306 pounds — with a prime opportunity to earn his stripes for a team in a transitional period.

How the offensive line manages without Jensen will determine the success of the Bucs in a shockingly winnable NFC South. Baker Mayfield steps into Tom Brady's vacant shoes at QB. That's a sizable downgrade, but Baker's not talentless. He is, however, not nearly as sharp in the pocket as Brady. The importance of keeping the pocket clean has never been higher for this group.

Cody Mauch, a second-round pick in April's NFL Draft, will join Hainsey on the Bucs' new-look offensive line. It's historically pretty difficult for young O-lines in the NFL, but the Bucs will hope sheer heart and talent can carry them to the promised land.

The NFC South is still remarkably shallow. The Bucs are capable of a Cinderella run to the playoffs, but Jensen's absence will be gravely felt. Do not be shocked if the Bucs seek veteran O-line help on the trade market before the season or before the trade deadline if the playoffs are still within reach.

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