Penn talks among Combine priorities
Restricted free agent LT Donald Penn remains in talks with the team with hopes of reaching a deal on a long-term contract. But if any progress is to be made in these slow-going negotiations, it'll likely come in the next several days.
Penn's agent will be one of many meeting with the Bucs in Indianapolis during the NFL's Scouting Combine, which begins today. Agent Rocky Arceneaux plans to meet with general manager Mark Dominik to see whether they can close the gap between them.
If they can't, expect the Bucs to make the requisite contract tender that will allow them to retain the right of first refusal if Penn were to receive a competing offer from another team. A maximum tender would pay Penn roughly $2.8-million, far below the average salary for a starting left tackle. If a team were to try and sign Penn, it would have to compensate Tampa Bay with a first- and third-round pick under that scenario. The Bucs could tender Penn at a lower level, but the compensation also would be less. A tender offer would have to be made by Feb. 26.
Unfortunately for Penn, who understandably feels undervalued after earning the minimum salary for two seasons, the Bucs probably have the upper hand here. The question they must ask themselves is whether Penn will be content if he is forced to play for much less than he's arguably worth and whether those feelings could prompt him to walk away in 2010 as an unrestricted free agent.
Another pending matter is the status of talks with CB Phillip Buchanon, an unrestricted free agent who undoubtedly will be an attractive player on the market if he makes it to free agency. There's been little word on the progress of the Buchanon talks, but considering defensive coordiantor Jim Bates' intentions of playing press pass coverage, retaining Buchanon would appear vital. Elsewhere in the secondary, SS Jermaine Phillips is someone the Bucs have targeted to re-sign, but there's no assurance they'll manage to sign him before the start of free agency.
So, while Antonio Bryant's situation has been the headline for some time, the Bucs also have several critical matters to deal with during the Combine with the start of free agency just eight days away. The action on the field, where prospects will be running and lifting for NFL teams, is just the tip of the iceberg.