The Tampa Bay Buccanneers have sent left tackle Donald Penn and his agent Rocky Arceneaux a letter instructing him of the consequences of not signing his tender contract. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik would like Penn to sign his tender and start practicing with the team at the mandatory mini-camp this month. In the letter the team warns that if Penn does not sign the tender by June 15 the team will exercise an option to reduce his 2010 salary.
“It’s a small reduction. Our hope and our intentions are obviously that Donald (Penn) signs it before June 15th," said Dominik. "I’m not asking Donald to show up to OTAs or do anything other than be out in California like he has been doing. He is working out. He has himself in good shape. We have been out there a couple times to talk to him. We just talked to Rocky [Arceneaux] this morning and so I’m happy and proud of what Donald has done. In the league, over 85 percent of the restricted free agents have signed their tender and I am sure that that number will continue to grow and I hope that Donald is one of them.
“I don’t see in terms of gaining anything by waiting to sign your tender. And that’s why we wanted to send a letter out today so he had the weekend to think about what he wants to do and make his decision for whatever he wants to do.”
If Penn does not sign his one-year tender contract he will lose $100,000 off the total value of the contract. Next year Penn is slated to make $3.168 million on his one-year deal if he signs it by June 15. After the 15th, the Buccaneers will exercise an option to reduce the salary to 110 percent of what Penn made last season. The Bucs have told Penn in the letter that his salary will be reduced by $100,000 if he does not sign the tender.
In 2009 Penn played under a restricted free agent tender and was paid $2.792 million. Because Penn was tendered a contract the team is able to fine him for missing mandatory practices like the mandatory mini-camp or training camp practices. The fines can be $10,000 for missing mini-camp practices and $16,000 per day for missing training camp practices.
“Anybody who does not show up to mandatory mini-camp is subject to fines, even Donald if he hasn’t signed his tender,” said Dominik.
Penn is the last unrestricted free agent that the Bucs have not been able to sign. Penn has started 44 straight games at left tackle for Tampa Bay after breaking into the lineup in 2007. The Utah State product Penn has shut-out some of the NFL best pass rushers including the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware in consecutive seasons, and the Minnesota Vikings' Jared Allen in 2008.
The Bucs other restricted free agents like Barrett Ruud, Cadillac Williams, and Jeremy Trueblood have signed their one-year deals.
“I think that as we go forward with all of our players, certainly we had five other restricted free agents to sign their tenders on our team, is to just evaluate our team as we go forward and when it makes sense for everyone to do a long-term extension then we will do that,” said Dominik. “My intentions by this are to follow the rules that are collectively bargained. Our hope, just like with the rest of our restricted free agents who have signed their tenders: Cadillac, Stovall, Trueblood, Ruud; that Donald just signs his tender. That is all we are asking him to do. Certainly we would love for him to be out here with his teammates. Do I think Donald will be out here with his teammates at some point? Absolutely.”
Penn is holding out with hopes of getting a long-term contract from Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers placed the highest level of compensation on Penn. Any team that would have signed Penn away would have had to give the Bucs a first and third-round pick, but the window to sign restricted free agents from other teams has closed. The Bucs say that they would like to sign Penn to a long-term contract when the timing is right after a new collective bargainning deal is negotiated.
“Obviously, I have a fondness of Donald Penn," said Dominik. "I pulled him from Minnesota’s practice squad and I am proud of what he has done and I respect the position that he plays as well.
“Signing his tender does not affect any opportunity to do a long-term extension. And because the restricted free agency period has ended, no one can trade for our restricted free agents at this point.”
Dominik was Tampa Bay's director of pro personnel when the Bucs signed Penn in 2006. Taking the first team reps for Tampa Bay with Penn absent has been second-year pro Demar Dotson.
“He has had the opportunity to sign his tender since March," said Dominik. "Technically he can sign his tender whenever he wants, but there is no punishment. He has not lost anything from a collective bargaining process of signing his tender June 5th versus signing it July 5th. There really is nothing that he is giving up as far as rights and as terms of being a restricted free-agent. Our hope and intentions is that he just signs the tender. We are just excited that we know he is working out. He has himself in much better shape. I heard he has lost over 40 pounds and that’s important.”
Like Ruud, Penn is one of a few players in the position of deserving a long-term deal and being forced to play under a one-year tender. The San Diego Chargers are taking the same approach with left tackle Marcus McNeil and wide receiver Vincent Jackson. The Denver Broncos are doing the same approach with defensive end Elvis Dumervil.
The 6-foot-5, 325-pound Penn has lost 40 pounds this offseason, and is working out twice a day with trainers in California. In his 44 straight starts no Bucs quarterback has gone out with injury from a missed block by Penn. Tampa Bay is relying on Penn to protect the blind side of franchise quarterback Josh Freeman.
“Our coaches have been out there, trainers out there and the report is that he is working hard," said Dominik. "He has lost weight, is looking good and that is exciting for us. Again, left tackle is an important position. It’s not like we don’t understand the importance of that position and what that means to this organization and we just look forward to him to continue to stay in shape like it sounds like he is and I look forward to him joining his teammates at some point.”
~Wolf Heard contributed to this report.