TAMPA — Right tackle Demar Dotson's absence from the Bucs' OTA practices this week is contract-related, and while the two sides have been engaged in negotiations on a new deal, his choice to not attend voluntary practices could escalate to a prolonged holdout if a deal isn't reached.
Dotson, 29, who has started all but one game for the Bucs over the last three seasons, is playing under a three-year extension he signed in spring 2013 — originally a modest three-year, $4.5 million deal. Escalators relating to playing time added $1 million to his base salary in 2014 and 2015 —- he is due to make $2.5 million this year, with the possibility of improving a $1.75 million salary for 2016 to $2.75 million with similar playing time.
That still is below value for a starting NFL right tackle, and giving Dotson a new contract is a possibility, but also sets a precedent for the Bucs and general manager Jason Licht in negotiating a bigger deal to a player with two years left on his contract. The team will also be hesitant to reward a player for using his absence from team activities as leverage for a new contract.
Licht declined comment on his absence, citing a team policy of not commenting on contract negotiations. Dotson's agent, Greg Hobbs, also declined to comment. Bucs coach Lovie Smith, asked about Dotson's absence Thursday, only reiterated that workouts are voluntary this week and that he knew where Dotson was.
Offensive line remains a major concern for the Bucs, who need to protect rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, taken with the No. 1 overall draft pick. Tampa Bay potentially will start two rookies in left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet, both second-round picks. Logan Mankins and Evan Smith return as starters at left guard and center, with Dotson back at right tackle after getting a look at left tackle in the final three games of 2014. With Dotson out Thursday, Patrick Omameh, last year's starting right guard, worked at right tackle.
Working at left tackle could have been more lucrative for Dotson after his contract expires, but he said last month he was fine moving back to right tackle, where he had played his entire career since joining the Bucs in 2009. He had spent the offseason preparing as if he were going to be a left tackle, and spoke about finding out that wouldn't be the case after Smith was drafted.
Dotson is missing what are officially voluntary workouts — the team has three more days of "organized team activities" next week as well. The Bucs have a mandatory minicamp for all players June 16-18, and his absence there would be more significant and could result in fines. The Bucs are expected to start preseason training camp around July 31.
Around the league
DOLPHINS: Receiver DeVante Parker, the team's first-round pick, had left foot surgery and will likely miss the start of training camp, but he's expected to be ready for the beginning of the regular season.
49ers: Right tackle Anthony Davis, 25, announced his retirement. It was unclear whether the decision stemmed from his difficulties with a concussion last year. Davis informed the team through his usual way of communicating: He sent a text message to coach Jim Tomsula before his teammates practiced. "I know many won't understand my decision, that's OK," Davis said in a statement. "I'm simply doing what's best for my body as well as my mental health at this time in my life. Sincerely, Anthony Davis."
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JAGUARS: Rookie safety James Sample will miss the rest of the offseason program because of a broken arm.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.