When the San Francisco 49ers signed center Weston Richburg shortly after free agency opened, he became the second-highest-paid center in the league from an average-per-year perspective. Without considering the full structure of the deal (incentives and all of that which are still up in the air for both players), Richburg has an average of $9.5 million per season, while Brandon Linder of the Jacksonville Jaguars has $10.34 million, or thereabouts.
A few days later, and Richburg is now the third-highest-paid center in the league, behind Linder in second and the newest member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ryan Jensen, whose contract carries an average of $10.5 million per season, though with one fewer year than Richburg, has a lower total value ($42 million over four years compared to Richburg’s $47.5 million over five).
Richburg has $16.5 million in true guarantees, while we don’t know about Jensen’s. He has $22 million guaranteed, but Richburg also technically has $28.5 million in guarantees, but only for injury.
Jensen started just nine games in three seasons before becoming a full-time starter with the Baltimore Ravens in 2017, and he played great football. Jensen, for what it’s worth, was given a 74.9 grade by Pro Football Focus in 2017, with three sacks, one quarterback hit and eight hurries allowed in 599 pass-blocking snaps. His 98.4 pass-blocking efficiency in 2017 was sixth-best among centers. They also gave him a run-blocking success rate of 88.3 percent.
Richburg had a lower grade from PFF in 2017, but he spent most of the year injured. His more relevant data comes from 2016, when he was given a 76.7 overall grade, down from the 86.5 grade he received the previous year. His pass-blocking efficiency was 98.7 in 2016, and they credit him with allowing two sacks, a quarterback hit and eight hurries that year.
Both players are 26 years old. Both players have one really excellent season. Richburg carries the injury from 2017, while Jensen has played fewer snaps.
It will be interesting to see how both centers perform in 2018. It’s not a position that received much attention prior to the start of free agency, with most of the offensive line conversation surrounding Andrew Norwell, Josh Sitton and Justin Pugh.