NFL Nation: Donald Penn

ALAMEDA, Calif. – Donald Penn watched the Oakland Raiders’ Jared Veldheer-Rodger Saffold fiasco unfold and had an inkling he might somehow, some way be affected.

After all, the Raiders had let Veldheer walk to the Arizona Cardinals and Saffold, who was to be Oakland’s first big-splash free-agent signing to replace Veldheer at left tackle, was injured, according to the Raiders’ doctors. And Saffold went back to the St. Louis Rams.

[+] EnlargeDonald Penn
AP Photo/Ben MargotDonald Penn is expected to be one of four new starting offensive linemen for Oakland this season.
Penn? He was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a day after the Raiders turned Saffold away.

“I look at it like this – everything in life happens for a reason,” Penn said last week. “And Oakland called me quick. My family was happy. They wanted me closer and I wasn’t ready to play right tackle yet.

“Being able to play with this [offensive] line and this team, we have a lot of chips on our shoulders.”

Penn grew up in Southern California a huge fan of the then-Los Angeles Raiders, so he saw the opportunity to wear the colors of his boyhood idols as a sign, of sorts. And the Raiders wanting him to protect the quarterback’s blind side, rather then be put out to pasture, so to speak, at right tackle more than piqued his interest.

The 6-foot-4, 340-pounder will be entering his eighth season. He was a Pro Bowler in 2010, when Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson was running the Buccaneers offense.

“Donald has great feet,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “He’s really good and has been really good in pass protection, and so that was one of the things that we looked at. Not to mention the fact that [Olson] has had an opportunity to work with him and kind of understand him a little bit and what the buttons are that you have to push to kind of drive him a little bit.

“I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen out of Donald and I’m hoping for a big year out of him.”

Penn figures to be one of four new starters on a rebuilt Raiders offensive line, with rookie Gabe Jackson expected to compete for the left guard position, new acquisition Austin Howard making the switch from right tackle to right guard and last year’s second-round pick, Menelik Watson, being groomed to take over for good at right tackle.

Center Stefen Wisniewski would be the anchor -- again.

“I like where we’re at,” Allen said. “I like the versatility, I like the depth. It’s all about using this time … meshing together as a unit. The one thing that we didn’t have an opportunity to do a lot of last year was get the same five guys working together and I think that’s important, especially at that position because all five guys at that position, the offensive line, really have to work as one. They have to all see the picture the same exact way because the picture changes once the ball snaps.

“I’ve been pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish offensive line-wise and I like where we’re at.”

As does Penn, even if the Raiders are more than a month away from putting on pads and actually hitting each other.

Besides, a projected line of Penn, Jackson, Wisniewski, Howard and Watson would average 6-4, 326 pounds.

“We’re going to be a physical offensive line,” Penn said. “We’re going to play like the old Raiders … we’re not going to get stupid penalties or stuff like that, but we’re not going to take anything. We’re not going to take any stuff.

“We’re going to run the ball and we’re going to run the ball and run the ball, until they stop us from running the ball … we’re going to dictate the tempo.”
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik’s tenure did not include a playoff berth. But, in hindsight, Dominik scored a major victory in one regard.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Bucs have the least "dead money" in the league at $901,763. Dead money is salary cap space taken up by players no longer on the roster. Although the Bucs have significant turnover this offseason, it hasn’t resulted in a lot of dead money.

No other team is close to the Bucs in dead money. The Indianapolis Colts are the closest at $1.8 million. The Dallas Cowboys lead the league with $28.7 million in dead money.

The bulk of Tampa Bay’s dead money comes from one player -- tackle Donald Penn, who was released and counts $667,000 toward the cap. The Bucs, who are $13 million under the cap, are in good shape largely due to the way Dominik structured contracts. He rarely gave out signing bonuses that are prorated over the life of a contract.

Instead, Dominik preferred to pay high salaries on the front end of contracts. That eliminated a lot of dead money when the Bucs did part ways with players.

But this tactic now has become more than a Dominik trick. It’s smart business and new general manager Jason Licht followed a path similar to what Dominik did with the contracts the Bucs have given this offseason.

Raiders offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
10:00
AM ET
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With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Oakland Raiders' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
AP Photo/Michael ConroThe Raiders were happy to land versatile linebacker Khalil Mack in the first round.
Best move: Letting the NFL draft come to them. By sitting tight in the first round, the Raiders saw playmaking linebacker Khalil Mack fall into their laps at No. 5 overall. By sitting tight in the second round, the Raiders saw their quarterback of the future fall into their laps at No. 36 overall. General manager Reggie McKenzie gets high marks for not overthinking things and staying true to his gut and drafting for need as well as snagging the best player available a year after trading down and taking injured cornerback D.J. Hayden.

Riskiest move: Call it semantics or claim that someone -- either McKenzie or the player’s mom -- was not telling the whole truth as to whether the Raiders presented a respectable offer, but the Raiders allowing left tackle Jared Veldheer to leave and reunite with quarterback Carson Palmer in Arizona was not a good way to begin free agency. In Veldheer, the Raiders had a known commodity. In his wake Oakland had to rebuild the offensive line. Replacing Veldheer was seemingly an unnecessary distraction, and though Donald Penn seems a suitable replacement, left tackle will be a need again soon enough.

Most surprising move: Getting an established, respected and accomplished veteran like two-time Super Bowl-winning defensive end Justin Tuck to buy in early and sign with a rebuilding team in the Raiders. The signing of Tuck, who put pen to paper a day after Austin Howard was signed, gave legitimacy to Oakland’s efforts in free agency and opened the doors for the likes of other vets LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, James Jones and Maurice Jones-Drew to also choose Oakland as their destination ... without Oakland overpaying. They are all on the back ends of their careers, but they should have enough left in the tank.

About face? Early in his tenure, McKenzie spoke of signing “high character” players with little to no baggage. So it was a surprise when he spent the third day of the draft taking players with questionable pasts, be it legal spats or getting kicked out of school or off a team. It reached a crescendo with this week’s signing of oft-troubled receiver Greg Little. But McKenzie believes he has built a strong enough locker room to withstand a wild card or two. Besides, if a guy can contribute and has convinced McKenzie he has changed, he deserves another shot, right?
The first day of free agency witnessed a changing of one guard. A couple weeks later, they ditched their center. So there were changes along the Washington Redskins' offensive line. However, it wasn’t a massive rebuild.

Still, it will be different with Shawn Lauvao at left guard and Kory Lichtensteiger at center.

Britt
Williams
Lauvao
“I don’t know what to make of it,” Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said. “We have to see how everything plays out when the pads get on and how everything meshes. Obviously Kory is a more than capable center, and Shawn has played and proven he can play in this league. I’m stoked to see how this thing works out.

“I feel we had a bunch of pieces already in place and [we] added some more and bulked up the offensive line a little bit. I’m thinking this thing can work out the best for us.”

Whether that does won’t be answered for another five months or so. Until then, it’s all speculation. Lauvao had a spotty track record in Cleveland, though multiple sources with the Browns said they wanted him back (clearly not at the price Washington paid).

Lichtensteiger has played guard the past three years, but now replaces Will Montgomery at center.

“When we played against [Lauvao in Cleveland], we had a lot of respect for him,” Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “I read some negative things about him, but among our defensive linemen we knew he was a guy that could play and played well for them when we played them two years ago.”

Washington also flirted with Donald Penn, who would have replaced Tyler Polumbus at right tackle. That position could be addressed in the draft as well.

The Redskins’ line wasn’t a big issue after the 2012 season, though in truth the scheme helped mask some deficiencies. The zone-read and the play-action game -- both in the stretch and regular -- caused hesitation at times among pass-rushers. Teams did not blitz as often. All of that helped give quarterback Robert Griffin III enough time to throw (or escape).

Last season, minus a similar threat, Griffin needed more time. And the line was forced, especially early in the season, to drop back without the benefit of as much play action. Not their strength. The result: more pressure. Griffin can help himself by making quicker decisions. The line can help with better protection, especially up the middle. That is, if the Redskins want to get the ball down the field. With DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts and Pierre Garcon, that likely is the plan.

And that means more pressure on the line to protect Griffin. Re-establishing the play-action part of their attack would help tremendously.

“We have to hold up a little longer,” Williams said. “Those guys are fast ... But that’s what we get paid to do.”
Fans and media types alike wondered why Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was suffering from what seemed like paralysis by analysis at the onset of free agency.

Why was McKenzie, with close to $65 million in salary-cap room, seemingly sitting out the first day or so of the frenzy, allowing the likes of division rival Denver to swoop in and sign players with aplomb, while his two best young players -- left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive end Lamarr Houston -- walked?

[+] EnlargeJared Allen
Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesJared Allen signed a deal with Chicago that could be worth up to $32 million.
It was, the harsher critics suggested, as if McKenzie was fiddling while Silver and Blackdom burned.

But all the while there was a thought that no one wearing silver-and-black-colored glasses wanted to face: What if, no matter how financially enticing an offer, a prime free agent simply did not want to come to Oakland?

Heresy or reality?

The Raiders got a dose of that Wednesday when NFL Network reported that veteran defensive end Jared Allen passed on the largest offer he received -- a $9 million per year bid from the Raiders -- and chose instead to go to the Chicago Bears, which, ironically enough, is where Houston went.

Early in the offseason, I suggested the Raiders re-sign Houston and make a run at Allen to play on the right side, while flipping Houston back to the left, his more natural position. Seems like the two will team up after all ... just in the NFC North.

Allen chose the four-year, $32 million deal offered by the Bears, in part because he was reportedly turned off by the Raiders not having a quarterback in place at the time, though Matt Schaub was acquired shortly thereafter.

Also, McKenzie has been saying this week that Veldheer and Houston simply did not want to return to Oakland. McKenzie told the San Francisco Chronicle that he struggled with the notion.

Of course, many will say that McKenzie could have simply slapped a franchise tag on either player if he wanted them back that badly or, on the other end of the spectrum, that he low-balled the two.

None of that really matters now, though. Not when McKenzie accomplished what he set out to do by getting high-character, veteran locker room leaders who are still productive such as defensive ends Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith, linebacker LaMarr Woodley, receiver James Jones and left tackle Donald Penn.

Besides, they all did want to be in Oakland.
Lovie SmithKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsCoach Lovie Smith and the Bucs expect to compete for championships starting this season.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- There is a very good reason why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been one of the NFL's most active teams in free agency.

"We thought it would be unfair to ask the fans to be patient with us," general manager Jason Licht said at the NFL owners meetings.

Fire those cannons at Raymond James Stadium and start the parade down Dale Mabry Highway. So far, Licht and coach Lovie Smith, both hired in January, are doing and saying all of the right things. They have signed 11 free agents, highlighted by defensive end Michael Johnson, cornerback Alterraun Verner and quarterback Josh McCown.

"We wanted to go out and sign as many good players as we could this year to help our football team and make it competitive this year, and strive to win a championship this year," Licht said. "Not go with, 'Hey, give us a couple years.' We want to do it as soon as we can. The fans deserve it. I found out in a two-month period that these fans are so passionate in Tampa. So we want players that are just as passionate as the fans."

Those fans should be ecstatic to hear Licht's comments. This is a franchise that hasn't been to the playoffs since the 2007 season, and hasn't won a postseason game since its Super Bowl victory more than a decade ago. The franchise had good intentions in the interim, but the results weren't pretty.

Plans were put in place at various times from the days when Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen tried to win with veterans, to the time when Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris decided to build through the draft, to the days when it looked like Greg Schiano didn't have a plan.

[+] EnlargeAlterraun Verner
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsLanding cornerback Alterraun Verner was part of an aggressive free-agent push by the Bucs this month.
But you can look at what Licht and Smith are doing and you see a firm plan that has a chance to work -- and work quickly.

"As you saw last year with Kansas City, sometimes a little change is healthy and successful," Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said.

The Chiefs indeed are a good example of a team that turned around its fortunes rapidly. Kansas City was dreadful in 2012, but made the playoffs last season.

For any doubters who say McCown, a career backup, doesn't have what it takes to lead a team to the playoffs, let me remind you that Alex Smith was Kansas City's quarterback last season. I don't see a big difference between Smith and McCown.

Yeah, people can talk all they want about how this is a quarterback-driven league and you need a star at the position to be any good. There is some truth to that. But was Russell Wilson really the best quarterback in the NFL last season?

Of course not. Wilson did some very nice things, but there were bigger reasons why the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl. The defense and the running game had a lot to do with their success.

It's pretty obvious Licht and Lovie Smith are following a plan similar to Seattle's. Smith comes with a defensive background, and he inherited some good talent on that side of the ball. Linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy already are in place, and you could make an argument that a pass-rusher was the only thing Tampa Bay needed to be a dominant defense. That is why the Bucs signed Johnson, who had 11.5 sacks for Cincinnati in 2012.

On offense, the Bucs have overhauled their line. They parted ways with Donald Penn, Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah, and replaced them with Anthony Collins, Oniel Cousins and Evan Dietrich-Smith. The running game should be in good shape, assuming Doug Martin is fully recovered from an injury that cut short last season.

I look at that and I see a team that might be ready to win now. I see a team with a plan that seems to make a lot of sense.

"Jason and Lovie have a plan, and that plan is that they want to win," Glazer said. "That's why we brought them in. We're all in the same boat. We want to win. They have a clear plan to get there, and that's why they were hired. We believe in the plan. We buy into the plan, and we're going to be supportive of the plan."

A few years back, the Glazers were often accused of not spending enough money to bring success. But recently, they have spent big money in free agency. This offseason, the Bucs went on another spending spree.

Licht and Smith frequently are being declared winners in free agency by the national media. They are also winning the news conferences by saying the right things.

Now, if they can go win some games in the fall, their plan could be a masterpiece.
Richie Incognito as a member of the Oakland Raiders is so, well, last regime. Or have you not noticed the trend and type of player general manager Reggie McKenzie has been signing thus far this offseason?

Incognito
They are guys not only with championship pedigrees but also locker room leaders. Guys like Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley and James Jones, and yes, the re-signed Charles Woodson.

Incognito exhibits none of those traits.

Sure, the left guard is a mauler on the offensive line who would have fit in nicely on the old-school Raiders’ island of misfit toys (imagine him and Lyle Alzado going at it in practice), but McKenzie is veering away from those types of players.

Asked at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando on Monday if he had seen the NFL.com report in which Incognito said he was “100 percent into” the prospect of playing for the Raiders, McKenzie smiled.

“I’ve heard about it,” McKenzie said, per the Bay Area News Group.

Asked what he thought about it, McKenzie smiled and said nothing.

Asked if he was interested in Incognito, McKenzie again smiled and was mute.

From a pure playing standpoint, Incognito does have relationships with Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson and assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tony Sparano.

“I’m a loyal guy,” Incognito told NFL.com, “and I’d love to play for them again. And, of course, the Raiders have that aura.”

But again, that aura is from a different generation. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, it just is.

Because the notion of Incognito -- who may still face league discipline for his role in the bullying episode in Miami involving Jonathan Martin -- joining the Raiders gave pause to even the progeny of Al Davis.

“I’d have to think about that,” Mark Davis told reporters.

He’d probably be wise to check in with recently signed defensive end Antonio Smith, who has a longstanding feud with Incognito going back to their college days in the Big 12, a bad blood grudge that’s included kicks to the head, helmets being ripped off and more-than-salty threats.

Yeah, Incognito would be a great fit for the old Raiders ... just not McKenzie’s Raiders, who have already added offensive linemen Donald Penn, Kevin Boothe and Austin Howard, to go along with center Stefen Wisniewski, the re-signed Khalif Barnes, second-year tackle Menelik Watson, veteran right guard Mike Brisiel, Matt McCants, Lamar Mady and McKenzie's first-ever draft pick, Tony Bergstrom.

As one anonymous Raiders player told me last season when I asked which player, Incognito or Martin, he would rather have as a teammate, “Neither,” was the reply.
The Oakland Raiders entered the 2014 free-agent market with an unenviable and counterintuitive task: They needed to spend like crazy in order to comply with the NFL's collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

Given the pressure involved -- and the leverage removed -- by some $60 million in initial cap space, it's not surprising the Raiders have made some debatable decisions. The most obvious: The sequence of events that allowed left tackle Jared Veldheer to depart and Rodger Saffold to agree on a massive deal to replace him before the Raiders voided the transaction because of concerns about Saffold's shoulder.

For better or worse, most of the big-spending opportunities in this market have vanished. So at the moment, it's worth taking a closer look at what the Raiders have done and where they need to go. Remember, the CBA requires each team to spend 89 percent of its cap space between 2013-2016 to be in compliance.

As you can see from the chart, the Raiders committed $32.05 million in cash, and almost the same amount in cap space ($31.84 million), for 2014 on the first seven free agents they signed. (The totals do not include Veldheer's apparent replacement, Donald Penn, who agreed to terms Tuesday.)

According to ESPN Stats & Information, those moves leave the Raiders with an estimated $30.8 million in cap space. They've committed about $88 million in cash to their roster for 2014, which by my count leaves them around $30 million short of the pace they would need to set in order to be on track for the 2016 compliance deadline.

Penn will account for some of that cash, and the Raiders can save some of it for their 2014 draft class. But they will have plenty left over for, say, a veteran quarterback if they choose to pursue one via trade or free agency later this spring.

There were two big questions to follow here as the Raiders looked for people to take their money: Would the cap surplus dilute their personnel values, and would their commitments put them in a less flexible situation for future years?

You have to wonder if the Raiders were a bit jumpy in the decision to hand Saffold -- a player who the St. Louis Rams preferred at guard rather than tackle -- a deal that included $21 million guaranteed. You can also debate the likely negligible impact of three aging defensive linemen on the team's long-term trajectory.

Antonio Smith (32), Justin Tuck (30) and LaMarr Woodley (29) could all be productive in 2014, but surely their best years are behind them. Each smartly jumped at the Raiders' interest and signed deals in the opening days of the market, a time when players older than 27 typically are relegated to the sidelines.

But the good news for the Raiders is that all seven of the players in the chart signed "pay-as-you-go deals" that have no fully guaranteed money after the first season. That means the Raiders could part ways with any and all of them without paying another cent and with a negligible amount of dead money on their future cap totals.

You won't find too many people who think the Raiders have used their cap windfall to improve the team. But their offensive and defensive lines will have new looks, if nothing else. And in the end, they haven't hamstrung their future decisions at all.
The Redskins' brass could dip into their past ties once again, trying to find a solution at right tackle. Free-agent offensive tackle Donald Penn, who has ties to several in the Redskins' organization, will visit Sunday, a team source said.

Penn
Penn visited Oakland on Friday, but the Redskins have already been in contact with him about a possible deal, according to multiple reports.

Penn started every game the past six seasons at left tackle for the Buccaneers. But he was cut after Tampa Bay signed free-agent tackle Anthony Collins. Penn would have counted $8.1 million against the salary cap. That figure, plus what the Bucs felt was diminished play, led to his release. But there was still a sense in Tampa that Penn still could be effective -- if he switched to the right side.

With Trent Williams already on the left side, Washington would want Penn to play on the right side. Tyler Polumbus has been the full-time starter at right tackle the past two seasons. Though he improved in 2013, he still was not as effective as the coaches would have liked, hence the interest in Penn.

General manager Bruce Allen, head coach Jay Gruden, secondary coach Raheem Morris, and personnel executive Doug Williams all were with Penn in Tampa Bay. Morris was head coach when the Bucs re-signed Penn during his restricted free-agent year of 2009.

If the Redskins sign Penn, it would be the third major move they've made along the offensive line. They signed guard Shawn Lauvao on the first day of free agency, then cut center Will Montgomery on Friday. They will move guard Kory Lichtensteiger to center. It could be that the starting guards would then be Lauvao and Chris Chester, unless one of the young players -- Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis or Maurice Hurt -- can beat him out in camp. If they sign Penn and cut Polumbus, it would save the Redskins $2.5 million against the salary cap. They would still have Tom Compton as a backup at both tackle spots.
It was a busy day Thursday and there could be more action Friday. So let's take a look ahead and then look back:

Scheduled visits
CB Walter Thurmond
Note: I have not heard that his visit has been cancelled after the Tracy Porter signing and interest in Brandon Browner. So as of now it looks like he’ll still visit here (originally scheduled for Friday). He also has visited with Jacksonville and tweeted Thursday that he was visiting with San Francisco that afternoon. Lots of frequent-flyer mile potential here.

CB Brandon Browner
Note: The Redskins just signed Tracy Porter, but clearly want to add more corners to go with DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson. They want to upgrade this position, but I also wonder what they have in mind because every one of these corners is capable. I have a tough time believing Thurmond or Browner or Porter, based on their experience, would want to be a fourth corner. The NFL Network reported Thursday night that Browner had agreed to a deal with New England. But Browner’s agent, Peter Schaffer, vehemently denied a deal had taken place to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. But Schefter reported this morning that Browner will visit with New Orleans after his stop in Washington (while also negotiating with New England and Oakland).

TE Owen Daniels
Note: Daniels arrived Thursday night and will leave after a visit Friday. He visited with Green Bay, but the Packers re-signed tight end Andrew Quarless afterward so it’s uncertain if the Packers still have any interest. The Redskins could use another pass-catching tight end to pair with Jordan Reed, coming off a concussion and limited to nine games as a rookie last season. They still like Logan Paulsen, but he’s a blocker. Niles Paul has not developed into that second pass-receiving threat after two years playing the position. Daniels has 365 career receptions, including 62 in 2012. But he was limited to five games and 24 receptions this past season because of a fractured fibula. Houston cut Daniels earlier this offseason. Given his age (31) and some durability concerns (he’s missed a combined 18 games the past four seasons, but only two in 2011 and ’12), he’d probably be best in a role where he’s not the primary pass-catching tight end. If healthy, he'd also provide good insurance in case Reed isn't durable.

Players of interest
OT Donald Penn
Note: The former Tampa Bay tackle’s first stop will be in Oakland. There’s a feeling that Penn’s play dropped off a decent amount at left tackle last season, but that a move to right tackle could be a good one -- and that’s what the Redskins would want him to play.

Waiting on
FS Ryan Clark
Note: He visited Thursday and, according to agent Joel Turner, it was “very good.” Of course, that’s how they’re usually termed; sort of like every surgery an athlete has was successful until we find out later that it wasn’t. Still, it must have been pretty good because both sides were still talking after it was over. Clark has interest from other teams, but his agent declined to say where he was headed next -- or to characterize the negotiations with Washington. Stay tuned on this one.

LB Anthony Spencer
Note: He visited Thursday as well and the Redskins remain in talks with him. If healthy, he's an excellent linebacker (or, at least, he was before 2013). Spencer played just one game last season because of microfracture knee surgery, and he's also 30. But if he can still play, Spencer could be used as a situational pass-rusher and, depending on his deal, provide insurance in case Brian Orakpo leaves after this season. Spencer played mostly on the left side in Dallas, but would occasionally flip to the right.

Done Deals
CB Tracy Porter
Note: Experienced in the slot and coming off his best season, but now playing with his third new team in three years since leaving the New Orleans Saints.

DL Jason Hatcher
Note: He'll turn 32 before the season, but will fit nicely in the Redskins’ defense with his ability to play outside in a base package and inside in their nickel. One Redskins source said Hatcher's ability to disrupt against them last year was the best they had seen in a couple years.

DL Clifton Geathers
Note: He's a big fella at 6-foot-8 and 340 pounds. In a game of leverage, that sort of height can be difficult. Last season with Philadelphia was the first time he had played in all 16 games since entering the league in 2010. He’s worth taking a shot on because the Redskins already have some depth at this position so it's not as if they're in trouble if he can’t play.

LB Daryl Sharpton
Note: Injuries have been an issue throughout his career, which could explain why he signed for just one season. If healthy he could start. He’s considered better against the run, but that’s what the Redskins want first and foremost from this position.

He’s out?
OL Bruce Campbell
Note: For a guy who has done nothing in his career (nine games, zero starts, let go by two teams), he’s sure been mentioned a lot. The contract he agreed to showed up on the NFLPA site, but it was never signed. The Washington Post reported that he underwent shoulder surgery this past fall (he was not on a roster) and that could have led to an issue with his physical. But according to The Baltimore Sun, Campbell will visit with the New York Giants. Yes, it happens where one team has an issue in the physical but another team does not. There's still a chance he ends up back in Washington. But considering the agreed-upon deal was for one year and worth a maximum of $715,000 this season, he's far from a lock to make the roster even if he does eventually sign.
TAMPA, Fla. – At a news conference to introduce the Buccaneers' two newest players, Anthony Collins was seated to Josh McCown's left.

Collins
That was more than appropriate because that’s where Collins will be spending much of his time. Continuing with their full-fledged overhaul, the Bucs signed Collins to a five-year, $30 million contract Thursday. They promptly released veteran Donald Penn, who previously played left tackle. That’s where Collins is going to line up as McCown’s most important protector.

“He is a natural left tackle,’’ general manager Jason Licht said.

But Collins hasn’t followed a natural path to get to where he is. With the Cincinnati Bengals since 2008, Collins has only 25 career starts and he’s bounced between both tackle positions and guard.

“I’m ready,’’ Collins said. “I’ve been waiting for six years.’’

Collins caught the attention of the Bucs with what he did last season. An injury to Andrew Whitworth opened the way for Collins to get seven starts.

“Watching all the tackles this year, he’s the one that jumped out the most to me,’’ Licht said. “It was such a surprise to see a guy thrown into the starting lineup and to actually see their team perform better. That’s not a knock on any player. He has great feet. He has great athleticism and he plays very hard. I don’t want to say he came out of nowhere because everybody’s been aware of Anthony for a long time. But when he got his opportunity, he performed exceptionally. We felt very lucky to get him and I don’t think he’s hit his prime yet.’’

There’s no question the Bucs are doing some projecting with this move. But I think it’s a step in the right direction as they rebuild their offensive line. Penn was getting older and he didn’t have a good season last year. Collins has plenty of upside and he said he is more than ready to protect McCown’s blind side.

“Patience is a virtue,’’ Collins said. “Now is my time.’’
We’re still more than 24 hours away from the official start of free agency, but it sounds like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers already have been active.

Teams have been allowed to talk to the agents of prospective free agents since Saturday and the Bucs have been tied to several players as a potential landing spot, according to reports by ESPN and other media outlets.

The Bucs reportedly are one of four teams interested in Chicago quarterback Josh McCown. That makes sense because Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith previously was in Chicago. McCown’s stock is high after he filled in nicely for an injured Jay Cutler last season. The Bucs have praised what Mike Glennon did in his rookie year, but Smith has said he wants to add a veteran to the mix and McCown would be a logical fit.

The Bucs reportedly are the frontrunner for Cincinnati defensive end Michael Johnson. He supposedly is looking for about $9 million a season, and the Bucs may be willing to pay that because they want to upgrade their pass rush.

Johnson isn’t the only Cincinnati player the Bucs have been tied to. They reportedly are showing interest in Bengals offensive tackle Anthony Collins. Tampa Bay already has started an overhaul of its offensive line by releasing veteran guard Davin Joseph. If Collins is signed, veteran left tackle Donald Penn could be on his way out.

Bucs begin O-line overhaul

March, 8, 2014
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made one major move on their offensive line Saturday afternoon and they might not be finished.

In a move that came as no surprise, the Bucs reportedly have released veteran guard Davin Joseph. The move instantly freed up $6 million in salary-cap space. The Bucs now will have more than $24 million in cap space as they head into free agency.

Joseph, a two-time Pro Bowler, had been with the Bucs since 2006. But Joseph became expendable after not playing up to his previous level last season. That might have been due to a knee injury that forced him to miss the entire 2012 season.

Joseph’s release might only be the first of significant moves on Tampa Bay’s offensive line. Left tackle Donald Penn (a cap figure of more than $8 million) and center Jeremy Zuttah (a cap figure of more than $4 million) also could be candidates for release or contract restructures.

The future of guard Carl Nicks is uncertain. He missed all but two games last season while dealing with a toe injury and a staph infection. Tampa Bay’s offensive line was supposed to be a strength in 2013. Instead, the offensive line underachieved.

That’s why the Bucs released Joseph and that’s why there could be more moves on the horizon. Tampa Bay could look to free agency and the draft to make several moves on the offensive line.
TAMPA, Fla. – The Buccaneers took a big step toward completing their coaching staff Saturday afternoon when they announced George Warhop will coach the offensive line.

Warhop has been an offensive line coach in the NFL since 1996, working for the Rams, Cardinals, Cowboys and 49ers. Warhop spent the past five seasons with Cleveland.

Warhop takes over a unit that underperformed much of last season and may go through some changes this offseason. There is uncertainty about the health of guard Carl Nicks, and tackle Donald Penn and guard Davin Joseph are getting older and carrying big salary-cap numbers.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Whenever the Buccaneers get around to hiring a general manager, one thing is going to jump out at him when he sits down and looks at the payroll.

The offensive line is taking up a ton of space toward the 2014 salary cap.

Four offensive linemen -- Carl Nicks, Davin Joseph, Donald Penn and Jeremy Zuttah -- are scheduled to count a combined $27.09 million against the cap.

That would be fine if this was a star-studded offensive line. But the fact is the offensive line wasn't very good in 2013. The running game never found any consistency and the pass blocking wasn't great.

It's a pretty safe assumption that the coaching staff and front office will decide to make changes to the offensive line. The area could be addressed in the draft or free agency or a combination of the two.

And it's possible the Bucs will either restructure the contracts of some of their high-priced offensive linemen or decide to release them. Joseph ($6 million), Penn ($7.733 million) and Zuttah ($4 million) could be released with almost no salary cap implications.

Nicks is a little trickier. His scheduled cap figure is $9.357 million, but $6 million of his base salary is guaranteed against injury. Nicks missed most of last season with MRSA and a toe injury and there's uncertainty about whether he'll be able to get back to 100 percent.

Right tackle Demar Dotson is the only member of the projected starting offensive line who doesn't have a big cap figure. Dotson is scheduled to count $1.25 million against the cap and that amount is fully guaranteed.

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