Bucs LT Penn enroute to Tampa and could sign deal in time for practice
Bucs starting left tackle Donald Penn is enroute to Tampa and expected to sign a long-term deal in time for Saturday's first training camp practice, according to a team source.
Penn, who has started 44 straight games, was at his home in Los Angeles when players reported Friday. He did not participate in off-season workouts or the mandatory minicamp after refusing to sign a $3.168-million tender. The Bucs had reduced his offer by about $100,000.
But faced with the prospect of not having any player on their roster who had started a game at left tackle to protect the blindside of franchise quarterback Josh Freeman, the Bucs relented and racheted efforts to get Penn into camp.
Terms of the deal still were being finalized Friday night. But it is believed to be in the neighborhood of the 6-year, $60-million contract signed by Carolina tackle Jordan Gross and Jets tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
Penn's agent St. Louis-based agent, Rocky Arceneaux, said Friday night he was headed to Tampa as well but indicated the deal had not been finalized.
News of the long-term agreement with Penn broke shortly after coach Raheem Morris addressed the media Friday. At the time, Penn and Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the Bucs' first-round pick, were the only players who failed to report.
McCoy's agent, Ben Dogra told the Times in a text message that McCoy had a house in Tampa and believed it was a good idea for him to head that way in case an accord is reached this weekend.
"He has a house in Tampa,’’ Dogra said in a text. “I absolutely guarantee there is zero deal with Tampa but I will do my best to get a deal done.''
Morris said he had been in frequent contact with Penn but gave no indication that a deal was imminent.
"It's not like he doesn't like his teammates, it's not like he doesn't like his fans, his town, his city,'' Morris said. "We're talking about the business side of football and that's the side I'm glad I don't have to deal with.''
Penn becomes the Bucs only restricted free agent to receive a long-term deal this season. Linebacker Barrett Ruud, running back Cadillac Williams, receiver Maurice Stovall and tackle Jeremy Trueblood each signed 1-year tenders.
Penn's signing may be well received in the locker room, but it also could begin a stampede to the office of general manager Mark Dominik.
Amid reports that the Bucs had no interest in negotiating with Penn prior to training camp, Dominik was in stealth negotiations with Arceneaux over the past week aimed at preventing Freeman from having to be protected by Demar Dotson, a converted basketball player from Southern Miss who has never started an NFL game.
"It's all individual. I fully support Donald and hopefully things work out,'' said Ruud, the team's leading tackler the past three seasons. "That's all I know about that part.''