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Tampa Bay Buccaneers plan no contract talks with Donald Penn

TAMPA — The Bucs don't plan on having any meaningful discussions with Donald Penn about a contract extension before training camp.

The prolonged impasse means the starting left tackle isn't expected to report with players on Friday.

Penn, 27, missed all voluntary offseason workouts and mandatory minicamp after refusing to sign a one-year, $3.168 million tender as a restricted free agent. The Bucs reduced the offer to 110 percent of his 2009 salary, a loss of about $100,000.

Penn, who has started 44 games at left tackle, attended the team's Fanfest last month in Tampa and met briefly with general manager Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris. He has been working out near his home in southern California, where he hosted a charity youth football camp July 17.

Agent Rocky Arceneaux has not commented on talks. He and Penn have taken the high road despite the lack of progress.

"Everything that's going on right now is out of my control," Penn said recently. "If we had a new (collective bargaining agreement) I would never have been in this position.

"I'm a good guy. I don't talk bad about the organization and I'm never going to start."

But Penn's anticipated holdout would be a daily distraction for the Bucs, who will hit the field for their first training camp workout Saturday at One Buc Place.

The Bucs' biggest concern will shift to protecting the blindside of franchise quarterback Josh Freeman.

With Penn absent, the left tackle position has belonged to Demar Dotson, a converted basketball player from Southern Miss who has never started a game in the NFL.

There are several scenarios to consider in what promises to be a fluid situation at left tackle. Basically, Penn's leverage will increase or decrease based on Dotson's development.

Beginning Saturday, the Bucs will pay close attention to Dotson.

The better Dotson plays, the less likely Penn is to get a long-term contract this year. But if Dotson performs poorly, Penn's argument will be fortified and anything is possible.

The value of the contract Penn seeks is unknown. But the team has to assume it's in the range of the six-year, $60 million deals recently signed by the Jets' D'Brickashaw Ferguson and the Panthers' Jordan Gross.

Restricted free agents have until Week 10 of the regular season to sign their tenders or must sit out the year.

Dominik had a big hand in bringing Penn to Tampa Bay in 2006 when he served as pro scouting director. But he was dismayed that Penn gained nearly 40 pounds during the second half of the 2009 season. Penn has been training hard and says he has lost about 30 pounds.

All of the Bucs' other restricted free agents — tackle Jeremy Trueblood, running back Cadillac Williams and linebacker Barrett Ruud — have signed their one-year tenders. Giving Penn a long-term extension might start a stampede to Dominik's office.

But like any NFL team, the Bucs place a higher value on the left tackle position, especially after investing so much in Freeman.

The 2011 draft class is believed to be rich in left tackles and there could be more than 300 unrestricted free agents next year if a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. Only a handful of teams are expected to be in desperate need of a left tackle next year.

None of that would help protect Freeman as he embarks on his first full season as the starter.

There is a compromise the Bucs might consider. Though he has no years remaining on his contract, the team could give Penn a moderate bump in pay for this season only. Under that scenario, Penn might feel the Bucs are rewarding him while he retains the ability to be a free agent at the end of the season.

But with no dialogue on a new deal expected before Friday, both sides appear to be preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers plan no contract talks with Donald Penn 07/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 8:15am]
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