T Donald Penn moved into the starting lineup in just his second season in the NFL and has opened the last 28 games at the critical left tackle spot
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have used the 2009 offseason to add proven producers to their offensive foundation, acquiring the likes of tight end Kellen Winslow and running back Derrick Ward.
Equally important, however, is maintaining that promising foundation, particularly in regards to the Buccaneers' young and talented offensive line. That line will return intact for the 2009 season after Monday's re-signing of starting left tackle Donald Penn.
Penn became a restricted free agent on February 27, but Tampa Bay retained a right to match any contract offers he received by extending the necessary tender offer. Penn re-upped with the Buccaneers by accepting that tender. Although the impending deal was reported over the weekend, Penn did not officially sign it until Tuesday morning.
A former undrafted free agent, Penn made an impressive rise to NFL starter in just over a year and has been a solid force on the Bucs' line for the past two seasons. In fact, his first career start — at Indianapolis on October 7, 2007, came exactly one year and one day after the Buccaneers signed him off Minnesota's practice squad in the middle of the 2006 campaign.
Penn was a rookie in '06, having signed as an undrafted free agent with the Vikings in May. He didn't make the active roster to start the season but found a place on Minnesota's practice squad. The Buccaneers saw promise in the Utah State product and signed him to their 53-man roster after tackle Kenyatta Walker landed on injured reserve.
Penn was inactive for the final 13 games of his rookie season but served as a backup to starting left tackle Anthony Davis. He was impressive in his first Buccaneer training camp in the summer of 2007 and became the primary reserve at both tackle spots. After starting left tackle Luke Petitgout was lost to a knee injury in the fourth game of the season, Penn stepped into the lineup and found a long-term home. He has started all 28 games since.
Penn has become an anchor on an offensive line in which the Buccaneers have invested heavily. Three of the other four primary starters — right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, right guard Davin Joseph and left guard Arron Sears — were drafted in the first or second round since 2006, and starting center Jeff Faine was the team's most prominent free agent signing a year ago. Versatile reserve Jeremy Zuttah, who started five games at two different positions as a rookie, was a third-round pick in 2008.
The 6-5, 305-pound Penn started 44 consecutive games as a collegian, tying the longest streak by a Utah State player since 1991. He was the Aggies' starter at right tackle as a freshman before switching to the left side for his last three seasons. Penn hails from Playa Del Ray, California, where he was an all-conference pick in football and an all-state selection in basketball.