The Baltimore Ravens traded Jeremy Zuttah, their center for the last three seasons, to the San Francisco 49ers March 16, opening up another spot along the offensive line after right tackle Ricky Wagner signed with the Detroit Lions via free agency March 9.
One of the Ravens' internal candidates to fill the center spot is Ryan Jensen, the 6-foot-4, 310-pound interior lineman who has played in mostly a reserve role during the first four seasons of his career. Jensen joined Glenn Clark Radio March 17 to discuss whether he's ready to be Baltimore's starting center if called upon.
"Personally, my reaction to that, I'd be excited. It's what we work for. We work to become that guy and everything," Jensen said. "To me, being kind of a backup for the last four years essentially, you learn a lot of things from veteran guys like Jeremy and [guard] Marshal [Yanda] and all those guys. You learn how to be a pro and all that. To me, I feel 100 percent prepared if that ends up being the case."
Jensen, who will turn 26 May 27, was drafted in the sixth round out of Colorado State-Pueblo in 2013 but was inactive for all of the Ravens' games that year. He's played in 19 games and started nine during the past three seasons, though most of his work has come at guard. Baltimore gave Jensen, a restricted free agent this offseason, an
original-round tender March 8
Jensen says he's ready for the challenge of competing for the center spot; John Urschel is the other currently rostered candidate. Even though Jensen hasn't played much center during the regular season -- Zuttah started all 16 games at center in 2016 -- he's confident he has the necessary chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco to be successful.
"Being with Joe and snapping the ball the past four years, whether it be [at organized team activities] or during practice or the preseason, we know how the snap's going to go and where his hands are going to be," Jensen said. "That's a big part of it, is … different quarterbacks have different hand position when they're under center. With being with him the last four years and snapping to him, it's not too big of a worry to me."
Jensen, a Fort Morgan, Colo., native, said he went back home for the offseason but did visit Mexico "for a couple days" to relax. Jensen said the way the Ravens' season ended -- in heartbreaking fashion at Pittsburgh Christmas Day -- is "not a good taste and it definitely sticks with you the entire offseason."
Jensen said he's "training right now and getting back into the best shape" he can be before offseason workouts begin in Owings Mills, Md., April 17 and will return to Baltimore "in probably the next couple weeks." When he returns, he might find competition at right tackle in addition to center, depending on what the Ravens do the rest of free agency. The Ravens also figure to address the offensive line at some point during the 2017 NFL Draft April 27-29.
The only sure bets to be on the offensive line are Yanda, left tackle Ronnie Stanley and guard/tackle Alex Lewis. Yanda, Pro Football Focus'
top-rated guard last year
, will shift back to his natural right guard position after sliding over to left guard during the middle of the season last year due to a shoulder injury.
Stanley missed four games with a foot injury, but the No. 6 overall pick from 2016
graded out very well once healthy
. Lewis missed six games with a high-ankle sprain, but he was very solid at left guard when healthy. When offseason workouts begin, so too will the process of building the offensive line around Yanda, Stanley and Lewis.
"Part of that, it comes with OTAs and all that. That's when really you start gelling," Jensen said. "Granted, it's non-contact practices and stuff like that, but that's when you're spending a lot of time with each other in the meeting room and out on the field doing drills and doing all that kind of communication stuff. It [gels] pretty quick. Offensive linemen are all kind of the same person; they usually have the same kind of mentality and personality. That gel kind of comes pretty quickly."
For more from Jensen, listen to the complete interview here: