Monday, June 14, 2010

Why The Fans Should Support A Donald Penn Holdout

There was rare news on the free agency front last week coming from the Buccaneers. Unfortunately, it wasn't positive.

Donald Penn who has been boycotting the offseason workout program and OTAs and whom has not signed is restricted free agent tender so far was sent a "warning letter" from the Bucs essentially saying that if he didn't sign his tender by June 15th, the team would reduce the tender to 110% of his 2009 salary instead.

Sounds like a very serious threat right?

That is until you realize that the difference between what he is being offered now and what he would be offered after June 15th is "just" $100,000.00. I put air quotes around "just" because I realize that for most of us $100 grand is no little bit of money. But for one of the premier left tackles in the NFC its peanuts in the grand scheme of things. And understand this, no matter how many different ways the Bucs try to call him fat when the subject of his play comes up, Donald Penn is a premier left tackle in the NFL.

And really, the fact that there is "only" a $100,000 dollar difference speaks volumes as to why Penn has every right to blow off the offer. Here is a guy who has brought the most stability to our left tackle position that we have had since the Paul Gruber era, starting the last 3 years, who essentially will only be looking at by my calculations a $200,000 bump in salary.

Those dollars don't make any sense.

So let me detail for you, the average fan, as to why you should actually be supporting him taking a stand.

Back to the subject of Donald Penn being a premier left tackle. First off it should be telling that whenever his name comes up the Bucs never talk about his play, but instead his weight. Now I realize that he did get big last year and yes he has taken steps to address that, but my question to you is did you see him play?

I did.

And he was not just a guy out there for us. On an offensive line that everyone seems to say underachieved he was the bell cow. Sunday after Sunday he faced teams best pass rusher and more than held his own. As a matter of fact in many games he was dominant. And lets look at some of the guys he faced last year. Demarcus Ware, Osi Umenyiora, Andre Carter, Julius Peppers, Trent Cole, Clay Matthews, Will Smith and John Abraham.

That's what you call a murderers row of defensive ends to face in one season. And you tell me, how many bad games did he have? I don't remember any. That's not to say he didn't allow any sacks all year. But it is to say at the end of most of the games last season I would say he got the better of each exchange.

The Bucs say they want to build a dynasty that will hold up over time. Well one of the essential elements of doing that is locking up your own talent long term. The reason why the Bucs were good to great from around 1997 to 20002 was the fact that they identified their outstanding players early on and locked them down with long term deals. Now, at a time when the team is close to silent in free agency, how can they possibly justify not signing one of their best and most consistent players to a long term deal?

Its simple, they can't.

They say that Josh Freeman will be the face of the franchise for the next 10 years. Well let me tell you this, that face will be bumped and bruised if we don't have a great left tackle out there protecting his blind side. Donald Penn has proved himself for three years now that he is more than up to the task. Look around the roster. Is there anybody else that you feel comfortable keeping Freeman clean?

And go back to the contract numbers. Its not as if Penn is being greedy. He played for relative peanuts those first couple of seasons and never uttered one word of disenchantment. He got a better deal last year but it still wasn't commiserate with his level of play. And now all the Bucs see fit to offer him is a relatively small bump in pay on only a one year deal? A year in which he could be injured and have his value drop tremendously?

In the immortal words of Ricky Waters, "for who? for what"?

Its not as if the team has shown themselves willing to do right by injured guys. Jimmy Wilkerson played well last year and then gets injured at the end of the year. And what did he get for his trouble? A lowball offer on a one year deal. Fortunately for him the New Orleans Saints saw enough to give him a better offer and he signed with them. But think about that for a minute. The reigning World Champions of the NFL saw value in Wilkerson when the team he played for didn't. Doesn't that strike you as, at the least, odd?

I know people will point to the CBA and an impending lockout as reasons to not give Penn a longterm deal but lets look at the Saints again. They locked up one of their outstanding young guards, Jahiri Evans, to a long term deal on a deal worth more than $50 million dollars over 7 years. Evidently the CBA and the potential for a lockout didn't make them shy away from signing one of their best young players to a long term deal, so why would it preclude the Bucs from doing the same?

The simple answer is it wouldn't. And remember that but for the owners allowing the CBA to expire Penn would be a unrestricted free agent this year due to make exactly what he is worth on the open market. Just like some people will say that it was just bad luck and bad timing for him but those are the rules, I would say that he then should use those same rules to his advantage.

NFL players are allowed to hold out until the final 6 games of the season then come in and play and still get an accrued season. With negotiations between the owners and the NFLPA on a new CBA looking to be at a stalemate making it more likely that there will be no football in 2011, Donald Penn has every right to protect his livelihood by holding out until such time that the Buccaneers come to their senses and grant him the long term deal he deserves or until the last 6 games to preserve his accrued season. I know its hard for fans to be on the side of players who are trying to maximize their value at times, but with the way the NFL is these days and players getting spit out even in the middle of their primes because someone deems them "over the hill" you at least have to see their side of it.

If Donald Penn's weight is so much of a concern the Bucs could always include clauses in the contract to protect themselves if he balloons up again. But the fact remains that no matter what the numbers say when he steps on the scales, the guy comes to play game in and game out. Its time for the Buccaneers to step up and put their money where their mouth is and pay the man. And if not its time for them to see what life would be like without him.

It is what it is.


  1. Excellent post Steve. Nice comparison to the Saints (with respect to their handling of Free Agents with the impending CBA issue). As for Donald's "weight issue," during camp last year he was destroying people (and he continued during the year). Weight, in this regard, is about insurance. Guys carrying ore weight can break down faster and the contract stipulations you mention would protect the club from that.

    Donald has paid the price of not being a household name when he took over the start and while his stats last year were not great, he played on a crap team with a revolving door at most skill positions and next to a good (bot not as good as the guy he replaced) Guard.

  2. As fans we fail to understand that while football is a game/entertainment for us, it is the livelihood for players. They have relatively short career spans compared to most people and have to earn (and save) enough to cover them for their life span yet the their career span may be 6-10 years if lucky. If in their situation we would all want to protect our financial future and get paid what we were worth as well.

  3. I agree with you and I don't. The problem is that you say without a long-term contract that he would be best served playing only the last six games of the year, then hitting FA.

    The problem is that his stock would take an ENORMOUS hit if teams only had six games of film on him immediately before his free agency. Because of that, he wouldn't command as much as he would if he went out there and dominated over 16 games.

    He has the chance this year to prove he's an elite tackle, one that can command a 50M+ dollar contract.

    So his options are:
    A) Holdout until the last six games in the hopes he gets his contract. If he does, good. But I'd guess that likelihood is low. If he doesn't, then not only would he lose 2/3 of his salary this year, but also command less on the market next year.
    B) Show up to camp, dominate, get 3M this year and a 50M contract next year. The big negative here is what if he gets hurt?

    I can see the logic to both sides, I just don't see the Bucs caving (collusion?) and I see so many others in his position that it doesn't seem like he has a high likelihood of success.

  4. "...And you tell me, how many bad games did he have?..."

    Two worst games...

    Week 5 vs PHI 2 SCKS, 2 Hits, 2 pressures (JJ QB 82 snaps)

    Week 10 vs MIA 1 SCK, 1 Hit, 4 pressures (JF QB 65 snaps)

    His 'rating' per is being killed by penalties.

    IMO - He's no different from the 100 other RFA's (and TBB's other RFA tendered personnel)signing a 1 year tender in the league.

    Show up beginning with the mando mini and TC and it will work itself out based on this years performance.

  5. @Matt

    Penn won't take a hit at all. He has 3 years of game film plus another 6 games. Teams that need a LT will scoop him up as soon as the clock strikes on free agency. On the other hand by showing up for a bullshit contract he risks injury that would put off that big pay day, especially in light of the fact that he wasn't a first rounder coming out. He has to protect himself and his earning ability since the Bucs aren't willing to pay him what he has already earned.


    I don't go by stats like that when judging games. I go by game tape and Penn played well in my opinion both of those games. NOBODY did great against the Eagles because they blitzed damn near every play. As for the Miami game he played well there too. If anything I would say he had trouble against John Abraham the last game of the year. But even then he more than held his own in my opinion. As for penalties I can't see how he killed us with penalties but Id take it with all that he brings to us. As I said before, signing him to a long term deal gives us stability at position that needs it more than we have had in more than a decade. The Bucs need to step up.