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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Penn had close calls on a long-term agreement with Bucs in '08 and '09



Left tackle Donald Penn neared an agreement with the Bucs on a long-term contract twice in as many years.

In 2008, he and agent Rocky Arceneaux thought they had an agreement with then general manager Bruce Allen, only to see it nixed by the organization.

In 2009, Penn believed he had reached a long-term deal after negotiations with Mark Dominik, who took over as GM. Depending on which story you believe, the Glazer family either killed the deal or Penn's camp made a last-minute push to sweeten the pot.

Either way, it didn't get done.

Enter the uncapped 2010 season and most teams -- including the Bucs -- are not really interested in doing long-term deals for veterans without a new collective bargaining agreement.

Instead of being an unrestricted free agent, players like Penn were restricted again, giving the Bucs the right of first refusal by submitting a one-year tender of $3.168-million. That offer will be reduced by about $100,000 after Penn declined to sign the tender Monday night.

Considering what Penn has accomplished, you can't blame him for wanting to get paid. He's clearly out-performed his current contract. Penn was a player plucked off the Minnesota Vikings practice squad in 2006 by Dominik, then the pro scouting director..

If ever there was a diamond in the rough signed by the Bucs, Penn may be it.

Penn sat by and watched the Bucs sign former Giants left tackle Luke Petitgout to a 3-year, $15.5-million deal prior to the 2007 season. The contract included a $3-million signing bonus and a $2-million base salary and $1-million roster bonus. It was good money for a player with a history of back trouble.

Petitgout was limited in the preseason because his back problem kept flaring up and Penn got increased reps in training camp and the preseason. In fact, Petitgout lasted only four games before he was placed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL in a game against the Carolina Panthers. But he walked away with $7-million.

Petitgout was released by the Bucs the following Aug. He was suspended four games for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs. He never played in the NFL again.

Enter Penn, who has started the last 44 games at left tackle for the Bucs. He is arguably the greatest left tackle in team history since Paul Gruber.

Gruber did not want to be the team's franchise player. In 1993, he was nearly traded to the Raiders before then owner Hugh Culverhouse signed him to a long-term deal.

Penn really wants to remain in Tampa Bay. He has worked out twice a day and has shed about 35 pounds. He preparing for a good year.

But those close calls on new deals have a way of beating you down. Still, if you understand how close Penn has come before, you understand why he wants to get paid. Now.

You can debate whether he's going about it the right way. But he saw how much money was wasted on Petitgout. How can you blame him for wanting to get his share?

Holding out is nearly always the only leverage a player has in these negotiations.

Not much is gained by Penn's refusal to sign the Bucs' one-year tender. It's an expensive statement, but one Penn and his camp believed they needed to make.

[Last modified: Monday, July 19, 2010 2:42pm]


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