On Thursday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht introduced Anthony Collins to the local press, and he did so with a very specific description: "The Buccaneers' starting left tackle."
The Buccaneers will have a new player manning that critical position for the first time since 2007, as Collins' arrival as an unrestricted free agent coincides with the departure of long-time starter Donald Penn. Tampa Bay announced the release of Penn just minutes before the press conference to welcome Collins and new quarterback Josh McCown into the fold.
Penn is the second starter from the Buccaneers' starting offensive line in 2013 to move on in the last week, as guard Davin Joseph was released on Saturday. Like Joseph, the 30-year-old Penn had been a fixture on the Bucs' line for years, in the process earning a lucrative six-year contract in 2010. Licht and new Head Coach Lovie Smith have chosen to invest instead in the 28-year-old Collins, a player apparently on the rise, as the blindside protector for their quarterbacks.
Penn took over as the Buccaneers' starting left tackle in the five game of the 2007 season after a season-ending injury to Luke Petitgout. He did not miss a game over the next seven campaigns, starting 108 contests in a row.
"We want to thank Donald for all he has done for the Buccaneers both on and off the football field these past eight years," said Licht. "Donald entered this league as a college free agent and worked his way into becoming an eight-year starter for this team. Starting 108 consecutive games in this league is quite an accomplishment and we thank him for his commitment and dedication to our franchise over the years. We wish him well in the future."
Penn, who initially signed with the Minnesota Vikings as a college free agent in 2006, joined the Buccaneers that same season after being signed off the Vikings' practice squad on Oct. 4. During his eight-year career in Tampa Bay, he went on to play in 112 games, and the aforementioned run of 108 starts is tied for the fourth-longest streak in franchise history. During his time with the Buccaneers, Penn also was an active participant in the team's community initiatives, spearheading efforts such as the team's annual "Turkey Time with the O-Line" holiday event.