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Tampa Bay Buccaneer Donald Penn receives a team-high bonus from league

TAMPA — LT Donald Penn still hasn't locked up that long-term contract he's seeking, but his ability to retain his starting job for a second straight season led to a nice bump in pay through the NFL's performance-based pay system.

According to league figures, Penn received a team-high $310,919 through the system designed to reward players whose performance outpaces their pay. Penn, who earned a third-year minimum salary of $445,000 in 2008, has been offered a top-tier restricted free-agent tender of $2.792-million, which he has not signed.

His bonus number likely will be among the league's highest when figures are released next week. And Penn wasn't the only Buccaneer to earn extra cash. FS Tanard Jackson was second on the team's list with $285,427, and RT Jeremy Trueblood was third with $185,113.

The list typically is dominated by young players at the lower end of the pay scale. Performance-based pay began with the 2002 labor agreement. It creates a fund from league revenues for supplemental pay based on a comparison of playing time and total salary. Using an index, the league compares each player's salary with those of his teammates to determine his payout. The per-team breakdown for the 2008 season was about $3.3-million.

The Bucs had four offensive linemen in their top 10, a sign the club is enjoying good bargains at the position. Besides Penn and Trueblood, G Arron Sears received $128,340 (seventh highest) and G/C Jeremy Zuttah $113,209 (ninth highest).

WR Antonio Bryant, who outplayed his veteran minimum salary of $605,000, received a bonus of $154,813. Others of note include undrafted free agents Elbert Mack ($80,359) and Clifton Smith ($64,808).

CADILLAC ROLLING?: The Bucs are in their first week of official offseason workouts, giving teammates an opportunity to assess RB Cadillac Williams' progress in his comeback from a second severe knee injury in 15 months.

Asked about Williams this week, RB Earnest Graham said, "His spirits are fine. Cadillac's not a guy who gets too down on himself. He's around doing a lot of stuff right now, cutting and doing some things. It's not even near (as bad) as the other injury."

The Bucs are under no pressure to rush Williams after signing free-agent RB Derrick Ward. But his second patellar tendon tear in as many seasons — one in each knee — is considered less severe than the one he sustained in 2007 to his right knee, which involved a separation of the tendon from the bone, as opposed to a rupture. Williams has said doctors told him the recovery time should be shorter.

Tampa Bay Buccaneer Donald Penn receives a team-high bonus from league 03/19/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 20, 2009 6:46am]

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