It unfortunately did not take us long to see the first serious injury of the 2022 training camp season, as Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen went down with a scary knee injury on Thursday. While nothing is official just yet, NFL Network reports that the fear is that he suffered a season-ending injury.
Head coach Todd Bowles said that Jensen will miss multiple months at the very least, so what will the Buccaneers do now? Bowles said that there has been some discussion about signing a free agent center, but not too much just yet, per The Athletic.
Tampa Bay also has a few in-house candidates who could take over in snapping the ball to Tom Brady this season, but they will have to earn that job. The Buccaneers are Super Bowl contenders, and replacing one of the two players who touches the ball on every single offensive play is very important. Below, we will examine five candidates who could replace Jensen in the middle of the offensive line.
1. Robert Hainsey
ESPN's Jeff Darlington reports that the Bucs are high on Hainsey, and that he will have the opportunity to replace Jensen. That sure makes him sound like the leader at this point. A third-round pick from last year out of Notre Dame, Hainsey played in nine games with zero starts. In all, he played 31 offensive snaps in his rookie season -- all at center. He played right tackle in college.
2. Nick Leverett
Leverett is another in-house candidate to replace Jensen. Undrafted out of Rice in 2020, he's played in two games in two seasons with 60 offensive snaps last year, all at left guard. If he or Hainsey impresses, then it makes it unlikely the Buccaneers explore the free agent market for a veteran snapper.
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3. JC Tretter
The NFLPA president is a well-known player who is one of three free agent options Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network named as a potential replacement. Tretter is still looking for another NFL team after being released by the Cleveland Browns after five seasons in which he missed just one game. The 31-year-old was originally selected by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Cornell. He actually recorded the highest PFF grade of his career last season with a 78.7.
4. Matt Paradis
The 32-year-old Paradis is another player Rapoport named as a potential Jensen replacement. He won Super Bowl 50 during one of his four seasons with the Denver Broncos, and spent the past three years with the Carolina Panthers. Paradis played in just nine games last year before tearing his ACL.
5. Billy Price
Price is the only former first-round pick on this list, as he went No. 21 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018. Just 27-years-old, Price spent three seasons in Cincy before being traded to the New York Giants ahead of the 2021 season. He played 985 snaps at center last year.