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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Speaking of restricted free agents, what about Donald Penn?

When right tackle Jeremy Trueblood signed his restricted free agent tender earlier today, it brought the situation of left tackle Donald Penn back to the forefront.

Penn remains unsigned and was tendered at the highest level possible, a one-year tender that requires draft pick compensation of first- and third-round picks if he is signed by another club. That's not going to happen because the price is much too high. And though Penn's camp sought to execute a trade before the draft, nothing ever materialized.

So, with Penn still angered over his second consecutive one-year offer, and with OTAs getting underway next week, where does this go from here?

Here are a couple of dates to keep in mind. On June 1, teams are required to extend the tender offer to any unsigned restricted free agents if the club wishes to retain exclusive negotiating rights. June 15 is the deadline for teams to withdraw or reduce their tender offers. Neither seems likely, but I'm not prepared to rule anything out.

So, as June gets closer, it's possible there could be a resolution here if the Bucs are inclined to get a deal done. The fact that they did not draft a tackle last month is a good indication they foresee Penn being on the team. But without a long-term extension, it's possible Penn won't show until the mandatory mini-camp in late June. Furthermore, if Penn chooses not to sign the tender before that point, he might not even show then because there's nothing the team can do. Because he wouldn't technically be under contract, the Bucs would be powerless to assess fines.

Whatever the outcome, Penn is positioning himself to have a good season, and even the Bucs have been pleased with his commitment to losing weight and getting into the best shape of his career. After getting down to 335 pounds before the draft, Penn has since lost 10 more pounds and is sitting around 325 after a regimen of twice-per-day workouts. Offensive line coach Pete Mangurian was witness to this when he flew to Southern California to check in on Penn last month.

If in fact a deal gets done here, it might be seen as a win-win situation. Penn will get the long-term security he has sought for the past two years, while the Bucs will have a left tackle who is in great shape and has greatly increased his strength.

Either way, the Bucs need to be thinking about a long-term solution at left tackle, whether it's Penn or someone else. It's a position that's far too important not to solidify.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 4:01pm]


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