The best-laid plans don’t always work out. When it comes to NFL free agency that means you can’t get every player you would like to have, even when you make the best offer you feel you can. There are 32 teams, and for the top free agents a team is almost always bidding against several others.
Such is the case with Andrew Norwell, the All-Pro guard from the Carolina Panthers. The New York Giants, with offensive line needs and a connection between Norwell and GM Dave Gettleman, are expected to be major players for Norwell when free agency opens March 12. That, though, doesn’t mean the Giants will get their man.
What if they don’t? Center Weston Richburg is expected to leave, and there are rumblings he could be joining the New York Jets. Justin Pugh will have suitors, and I’m told the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks could be among them. There are reports that D.J. Fluker is unlikely to return.
An offensive lineman who has been connected to the Giants is Ryan Jensen, a four-year veteran who emerged as a full-time starter at center for the Baltimore Ravens last season. Jensen, who will be 27 next season, has also played both guard spots for Baltimore.
The 2017 season was Jensen’s first as a full-time starter. Kyle Barber of SB Nation’s Ravens blog, Baltimore Beatdown, sees Jensen as a legitimate, quality player. Via e-mail, Barber wrote:
After a couple seasons with the Ravens, Jensen transitioned from a role player into a starting caliber center. He’s turned into a strong run blocker and a smart pass-blocking technician. He still has room to grow, but there’s no doubt, Ravens RB Alex Collins doesn’t produce nearly 1,000 yards without the help of Jensen. How Jensen was capable of creating running lanes is slightly surprising, as we all expected the Ravens to utilize the game plan ‘run behind Marshal Yanda’. but after Yanda’s injury, the line rallied and began to mesh without the All-Pro guard.
Jensen is also a player with a temper. Any person who plans on messing with Joe Flacco, will receive a swift hit from the offensive lineman. After Kiko Alonso’s high tackle on a slidIng Joe Flacco, Jensen was instantly protecting Joe Flacco and shoving Kiko into the turf. He’s been feisty since his first days with the Ravens, and you love to see it with your big guys.
I don’t believe last season is a ‘one-off’; he has grown in his skills for years. After finally was given the opportunity to start, he ran with it and put up good blocking. Unfortunately for the Ravens, it happened in a contract year.
Even if the Giants lose Richburg, restricted free agent center Brett Jones returns. He played well filling in for Richburg after a concussion ending his 2017 season, but there is no way to know right now how Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur view Jones.
Jensen’s grading chart from Pro Football Focus shows an ascending player.
In its free agency guide, PFF says:
Unlike many of the centers hitting free agency, Jensen is coming off a career year. That career year, though, still only netted him a 74.9 overall grade. Jensen isn’t the most fleet-of-foot center and struggled recovering on stunts and playing in space. He’s at his best when he can immediately engage a nose tackle at the line of scrimmage and generate movement.
Spotrac estimates Jensen’s market value at five years, $44.62 million, or roughly $8.9 million. That is just below the high-paid centers in the league earn in terms of average annual value, with Brandon Linder of the Jacksonville Jaguars earning $10.34 million annually. Linder, Travis Frederick, Alex Mack and Justin Britt all make an average of $9 million or more annually.
At that price point, just outside the top five highest-paid centers in the game, is Jensen a player the Giants should be pursuing?